Senate Republicans — who know they probably won’t be able to prevent Ketanji Brown Jackson from being confirmed to the Supreme Court — opened her confirmation hearing by focusing on something else: old grievances.
Several Republicans, including Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), sought to draw a direct contrast between how Jackson is being treated and how Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was treated during his hearing in 2018. Repeatedly, senators noted that Jackson’s questioning would focus on her legal record and not what they called the “personal attacks” Kavanaugh experienced, when he was faced with allegations of sexual assault. In doing so, they downplayed the allegations brought against him and tried to suggest that their treatment of Jackson this week would be an improvement upon how Democrats previously behaved.
“When we say this is not Kavanaugh, what do we mean?” Graham said. “It means Democratic senators are not going to have their windows busted by groups. No Republican senator is going to unleash an attack on your character when the hearing is almost over.”
It’s a way to preempt the possible blame Republicans might get for their questioning of Jackson, said Mike Davis, the head of the Article III Project, a right-leaning advocacy group focused on the federal judiciary.
“It preempts any complaints Democrats might have about GOP criticisms of Judge Jackson’s record because their attacks on Justice Kavanaugh were personal and unproven,” Davis, who has been informally advising Republican staff, told Vox. “It’s also a reminder to the public of how terribly Democrats treated Justice Kavanaugh and his family. The GOP will focus on her professional record, giving their criticisms more credibility.” (There are key differences between the two: for instance, Kavanaugh faced credible allegations of sexual assault, while Jackson does not.)
Republicans also emphasized Democrats’ past opposition to federal judicial nominees Miguel Estrada, who is Latino, and Janice Rogers Brown, who is Black, to suggest that Democrats have been harsher on nominees of color if they are GOP appointees.
Republicans’ questions and attacks this week are intended to make the hearing “more of a political wash instead of a political win for Democrats,” Davis previously explained. By drawing attention to the ways Democrats have allegedly mistreated Republican nominees, the GOP is trying to suggest that its treatment of Jackson is well within Senate norms.
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