Senate Republicans launched their attacks on Ketanji Brown Jackson, Joe Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, before the President officially announced his pick on Friday, portraying her as a pawn of the Left.
While Democrats praised the qualifications of Biden’s choice, potentially the first Black woman to serve on the court, Republicans criticized her educational background, her record on crime and the support she holds from left-wing groups.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who voted for Jackson to serve as a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit eight months ago, appeared to unfavorably consider her nomination, saying in a tweet that “the radical Left has won President Biden over yet again.”
The initial reaction to reports of the pick underscored the partisan nature of Supreme Court fights, far removed from those of two decades ago, when justices like the late Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were confirmed with little opposition in the Senate.
Jackson, 51, currently sits on DC’s federal appellate court and had been considered the front-runner for the vacancy since Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement. Jackson worked as a clerk for Breyer, a federal public defender, an attorney in private practice, a federal district court judge and a member of the US Sentencing Commission.
“With her exceptional qualifications and record of evenhandedness, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will be a Justice who will uphold the constitution and protect the rights of all Americans, including the voiceless and vulnerable,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Breyer was confirmed in 1994 with 87 votes. Jackson will be fortunate to retain the three Republican votes she received last year from Graham, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, along with all 50 Democratic senators.
“I’ve been clear that previously voting to confirm an individual to a lower court does not signal how I will vote for a Supreme Court justice,” said Murkowski. “I am committed to doing my due diligence before making a final decision on this nominee. Being confirmed to the Supreme Court – the nation’s highest tribunal, and a lifetime appointment – is an incredibly high bar to achieve.”
While only a simple majority is necessary to confirm Supreme Court nominations in the 50-50 Senate, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee could boycott a vote to stall the nomination. Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the panel, has previously indicated to CNN, however, that he didn’t favor going that route.
“I intend to show up and do the job that Iowans pay me to do,” said Grassley.
Graham preferred for Biden to choose J. Michelle Childs from his home state, and criticized the President for choosing another nominee from the Ivy League, even though he’s supported conservative judges for the Supreme Court from those elite institutions. Jackson went to a public high school in Miami before earning both her undergraduate degree and law degree at Harvard University.
“The Harvard-Yale train to the Supreme Court continues to run unabated,” said Graham. “I expect a respectful but interesting hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
Many Republicans and conservative activists criticized Jackson on ideological grounds, arguing she is backed by progressives and far-left interest groups. Carrie Severino, president of the conservative group Judicial Crisis Network, said Jackson would be “a politician in robes.”
“We must not blindly confirm a justice to serve as a rubber stamp for a radical progressive agenda,” said Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also noted in a statement that Jackson had “published a total of two opinions” since she was confirmed to her new post last year – even though she wrote more than 500 opinions in the eight years she spent on the district court – before turning to the broader party’s criticism. McConnell said she was “the favored choice of far-left dark-money groups that have spent years attacking the legitimacy and structure of the Court itself.”
Some Republicans have scrutinized Jackson’s record defending Guantanamo Bay detainees as a public defender. Others have questioned her views on the role of race in the US criminal justice system.
Missouri GOP Sen. Josh Hawley said he was “troubled” by Jackson’s “record on crime and criminal justice.”
But some Republicans touted her qualifications for the office.
“Ketanji Brown Jackson is an experienced federal judge with impressive academic and legal credentials,” said Collins.
And former House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican who is a relative by marriage to Jackson, said, “Our politics may differ, but my praise for Ketanji’s intellect, for her character, and for her integrity, is unequivocal.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Friday.
CNN’s Ariane de Vogue and Manu Raju contributed to this report.