Three Routes Senators Intend To Take In Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings

The first day of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings featured opening statements from members, road maps of where the senators intend to go during the next couple days of questioning. 

Republicans have struggled to coalesce behind one coherent line of attack, not least because they don’t have much of an impetus to vociferously fight her confirmation. They already have a supermajority on the Supreme Court, and Democrats seem to have the votes to confirm Jackson without them. 

For Democrats, it was a chance to tout what they liked about her record — over and over and over again. 

Here are three takeaways from day one of the confirmation hearings. 

1. Republicans Are Still Very Bitter Over The Kavanaugh Hearings 

Perhaps the most striking feature of opening day of the hearings was how little time was spent on Jackson, the candidate up for confirmation. Republican after Republican instead cast their gaze backwards, rehashing the supposedly egregious way Justice Brett Kavanaugh was treated during his hearings.

Professor Christine Blasey Ford, in 2018, accused Kavanaugh of attempting to sexually assault her while they were in high school. Republicans reduced that accusation and its subsequent protests Monday to “nonsense,” “theatrics” and a “circus.” Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) bemoaned their own treatment during the hearing, the former grousing about being interrupted during his opening statement and the latter claiming he was spit on as he walked back to his office.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) invoked Justice Clarence Thomas’ hearings too, calling them a “disgrace.” Thomas was accused of sexual harrassment by Anita Hill. Both men, obviously, were confirmed anyway.

Many followed up the bitter remembrances of past hearings with promises that Jackson would not be subjected to the same treatment — a seemingly obvious point, since no one has accused Jackson of sexual assault. 

2. Republicans Continue To Embrace Hawley’s QAnon-Flavored Attacks

The most specific attack line trotted out during the hearing was Sen. Josh Hawley’s (R-MO), which he has been telegraphing on Twitter and Fox News in recent days. 

In a criticism seemingly tailor-made for the QAnon wing of the party, he has stitched together cases he claims prove that Jackson has a history of leniency in sentencing sex offenders who prey on children. 

The claims have been debunked in multiple outlets, but the Republican National Committee is happily amplifying them. 

“Ketanji Brown Jackson has shown leniency towards child porn offenders,” the RNC blasted out to its email list. “That is a fact.”

Hawley essentially read his Twitter thread into the record Monday, reiterating the accusations to a note-taking Jackson, who sat in front of her children. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) also lodged the accusations amid a dizzying list of complaints about Fox News talking points — trans kids in sports, criminals on city streets, critical race theory — and Graham said that Hawley’s accusations were “fair game.” 

The few other Republican attacks Monday involved accusing Jackson of radicalness by association with some groups that supported her candidacy. 

3. Abrupt And Disconcerting Tenor Changes 

After Republicans complained about Kavanaugh or accused Jackson of sympathizing with pedophiles, nearly every Democrat would pivot back to the specially odd confirmation hearing practice of reading to the nominee the bullet points of her resume. 

The tone went from tense and dark to soporific with each party baton handoff. Very few Democrats rebutted Republicans’ accusations, the majority choosing to stick to their prepared remarks about Jackson’s experience and intelligence. 

After the hearing concluded, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) didn’t even take the bait to respond to Republicans’ myriad Kavanaugh complaints. 

“We’re looking forward,” he said, adding that “we all learn from life experiences,” without detailing what exactly he learned from Kavanaugh’s confirmation process. He added that not every part of Kavanaugh’s hearings was in Democrats’ control, seeming to suggest some agreement with Republican complaints about the protests and interruptions.