Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson to answer questions at confirmation hearing

Hearings began Monday with opening statements from senators on the panel and the nominee. Two days of interrogations — expected to be the most contentious part of the public vetting process on Capitol Hill — begin Tuesday and run through Wednesday.

Democrats have so far used the hearings to praise Brown — who would be the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court — as an exceptionally qualified and trailblazing candidate whose depth and breadth of experience, including in as a federal public defender, would add a valuable and unique perspective to the bench.

In contrast, Republicans have attempted to portray her as weak on crime by focusing on some of her past defense work as well as broadly trying to connect her to criminal justice policies which they say have fueled a rise. of crime. Republicans also slammed support for the nomination from leftist groups and raised questions about what constitutes Jackson’s judicial philosophy as they cautioned against bench activism.

Jackson had the opportunity on Monday to formally introduce herself to the Judiciary Committee — and to the American public watching the hearings — and she spoke about her family background and her gratitude for the nomination.

“I hope you will see how much I love our country and the Constitution, and the rights that set us free,” she said. “I have dedicated my career to ensuring that the words etched on the facade of the Supreme Court building – ‘Equal Justice Under the Law’ – are a reality and not just an ideal.”

On Tuesday, senators will have the opportunity to pose questions to the candidate for 30 minutes each, according to the schedule established by the committee. There are 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans on the panel and questioning is expected to stretch late into the evening.

On Wednesday, lawmakers will have 20 minutes each for a second round of questioning.

The first day of hearings offered lawmakers on both sides of the aisle a chance to preview the arguments they are likely to return to during their rounds of questioning.

Democrats pointed to Jackson’s credentials and the historic nature of her nomination and mounted a defense against Republicans’ arguments that she is low on crime.

“We have heard claims that you are ‘soft on crime.’ These baseless accusations are unfair,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said during the hearing. of Monday.

“I’m confident the American people will see through these attacks and any other last-minute attempts to derail your confirmation,” he said.

In his opening remarks, the committee’s top Republican member, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, promised a “thorough and comprehensive review of Judge Jackson’s case and opinions.”

He pointed out that there are two types of candidates who have worked on criminal cases: “Charter of Rights lawyers, who want to protect the constitutional rights of defendants” and “criminal defense lawyers, who are not in accordance with our criminal laws”.

“Of course, that’s a very important difference,” he said.

Other Republicans on the panel were more forceful and direct in predicting lines of attack against the candidate.

As a public defender, Jackson represented a Guantanamo Bay detainee, but it was her advocacy for detainees while working at a private company that Republicans are especially skeptical of.

“I’m a little troubled by some of the positions you’ve taken and the arguments you’ve made representing people who have committed terrorist acts against the United States and other dangerous criminals,” said Senator John Cornyn. , a Republican from Texas. Monday.

Ahead of the hearing, which begins this week, Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri raised concerns about Jackson’s conviction record in child pornography cases – a hot topic he returned to on Monday.

CNN’s extensive review of the material in question after Hawley initially aired his criticisms shows that Jackson mostly followed common court practice when it comes to sentencing in such cases and that Hawley took some of his comments out of their context by suggesting that they were opinions, rather than follow-up questions to subject matter experts.

It has become a norm among judges to hand down sentences below the guidelines in certain child pornography cases that do not involve the production of pornography itself. The guidelines are considered outdated by many judges, especially for how they deal with the use of computers and other items that can improve a sentence under the guidelines.

“Some have said the federal sentencing guidelines are too harsh for child sex crimes, particularly child pornography,” Hawley said Monday. “I’ll just be honest, I can’t say I’m okay with that.”

The White House and Senate Democrats pushed back on Jackson’s defense.

“In the vast majority of cases involving child sex crimes, sentences imposed by Judge Jackson met or exceeded what the government or U.S. probation recommended,” the House press secretary said last week. Blanche, Jen Psaki.

“She comes from a law enforcement family, has dedicated her career to upholding the rule of law, which is why she is endorsed by so many top law enforcement organizations in the country. and attempts to smear or discredit his story and work are not borne out by facts,” Psaki added.

Democrats can confirm Jackson to the High Court based on their narrow Senate majority, with 50 votes and Vice President Kamala Harris breaking a tie. The party needs no Republican support for successful confirmation, but if Republicans vote to confirm, it would give the White House a chance to tout bipartisan confirmation.

It’s not yet clear, however, whether Jackson will receive votes from Republicans.

When the Senate voted to confirm her last year to fill a vacancy on a powerful DC-based appeals court, three Republican senators voted with Democrats in favor: Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins from Maine and Lisa Murkowski from Alaska.

CNN’s Alex Rogers and Tierney Sneed contributed to this report.

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