During her opening statement, Jackson thanked God and her family for their support, and assured senators that she takes her "duty to be independent very seriously.”
“I decide cases from a neutral posture,” she said. “I evaluate the facts, and I interpret and apply the law to the facts of the case before me, without fear or favor, consistent with my judicial oath," Jackson added.
Senators on the committee also delivered opening statements, providing a preview of what to expect over the next couple of days as Jackson faces questions from lawmakers.
Democrats celebrated the historic nature of Jackson's nomination and praised her unique experience and legal record.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin’s opening statement emphasized the groundbreaking nature of Jackson's nomination to the highest court.
“Not a single justice has been a Black woman. You, Judge Jackson, can be the first,” Durbin said. “It's not easy being the first. Often you have to be the best. In some ways, the bravest. Many are not prepared to face that kind of heat, that kind of scrutiny, that ordeal and the glare of the national spotlight," he added.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar highlighted the important role justices play on rulings that impact every day people.
The court “must be able to see the real people at the other end of its rulings," she said during her opening statement.
“Like Americans who are one Supreme Court decision away from losing their health insurance, or one court decision away from the ability to make their own health care choices, or the Dreamers who could lose the only country they've ever known,” Klobuchar said, alluding to the previous Supreme Court cases that dealt with the Affordable Care Act and immigration policy.
Jackson’s public defender experience, according to Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, helps her “understand our justice system uniquely, through the eyes of people who couldn't afford a lawyer.”
“They couldn't afford their own lawyer and you advocated for them,” Blumenthal said, later adding that as a former prosecutor, he knows that the “system works best when there are good lawyers on both sides."
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s opening statement was a particularly poignant reflection of the unprecedented moment. The committee’s sole Black member described the hearing as "not a normal day for America. We have never had this moment before."
“We are on the precipice of shattering another ceiling,” Booker said. “It's a sign that we as a country are continuing to rise to our collective cherished highest ideals," he said.
Republicans, meanwhile, used their opening statements to focus on past contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearings, namely Justice Brett Kavanaugh's process.
The very beginning of the opening statement from Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the committee’s top Republican, was call back to those hearings, with him recounting how his opening remarks were almost immediately interrupted by protestors.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said Republicans “couldn’t go back to our offices during Kavanaugh without getting spit on.”
Promising that Jackson’s hearings won’t be a repeat of the ugliness of the Kavanaugh fight, Graham referred specifically to the sexual assault allegations put forward about the judge in late summer 2018.
“It means that no Republican senator is going to unleash on you an attack about your character when the hearing is virtually over,” Graham said, while seeming to allude to the role California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein played in the allegations – which Kavanaugh has vehemently denied — coming out.
Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas also rehashed past Supreme Court hearings which they viewed as politically motivated and noted that Jackson's record on crime are "fair game" during the hearing process.
“When we’re focused on things that we have no business doing, like bringing forward spurious last minute, uncorroborated accusations of a personal nature, we neglect the importance of talking about the jurisprudential role, the philosophy that guides individual jurists," Lee said.
Cruz said that “part of the Democratic effort to abolish the police is nominating justices that consistently side with violent criminals, release violent criminals, refuse to enforce the law and that results in jeopardizing innocent citizens,” and so questions about that are “fair game.”
What to expect tomorrow: Senators from both sides of the aisle will have an opportunity to question Jackson on her experience. Day 2 of the hearings begin at 9 a.m. ET.