Republicans will make Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing as uncomfortable as possible
Jackson is the first Black woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court, and it seems the GOP has noticed.
Last month, President Biden nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. If confirmed, she’d be first Black woman justice. But to nobody’s surprise, Republicans will likely make Jackson’s confirmation hearing, which began Monday, as uncomfortable as possible. I, personally, am looking forward to seeing how many different ways misogynoir will be framed as “valid” critique.
Currently, Jackson, a D.C. native, serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Her nomination came after Justice Stephen Breyer (one of the few remaining liberals by Supreme Court standards) announced his retirement. But it wasn’t notable based on identity alone. As a former public defender, Jackson could become the first justice in decades with any significant experience in criminal defense.
From the start, conservatives pushed back against Biden’s choice. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees SCOTUS nominations, claimed the “radical left” had influenced Biden’s decision. He said, “I expect a respectful but interesting hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
Since then, Republicans have attempted to discredit Jackson a few times. Last week, Senate Minority Mitch McConnell claimed, “We’re in the middle of a violent crime wave including soaring rates of homicides, and car-jackings. Amid all this, the soft on crime brigade is squarely in Judge Jackson’s corner.”
Per NPR, McConnell likely avoided saying anything directly about Jackson because it would look bad for an old white man to go after a Black woman — at least blatantly. But NPR also noted that McConnell may feel he has to tread lightly because Jackson has the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police. In a statement of support, the FOP stated that Jackson “applied the law consistently and fairly on a range of issues” and said “there is little doubt that she has the temperament, intellect, legal experience, and family background to have earned this appointment.”
At confirmation hearings, senators have the opportunity to masquerade personal attacks as just politics. “Often these hearings become sort of kabuki theater,” NYU law professor Melissa Murray told NPR. “The senators get to play out various soundbites that are later repurposed and repackaged.”
Jackson’s allies, however, have been preparing ahead of the hearing. Republicans’ focus on questioning Jackson’s credentials isn’t new. This happens to Black women all the time, especially when they’re in positions of real power. So Jackson’s supporters have created their own counter-narrative, highlighting her comprehensive background and impressive career thus far.
For example, the Black Women’s Leadership Collective partnered with Building Back Together, a pro-Biden non-profit org, and the #SheWillRise campaign to launch a $1 million ad campaign in support of Jackson. One ad stated, “Graduating with honors from Harvard Law, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has seen all sides of the justice system up close, as a federal judge, public defender and on the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Confirmed three times by the U.S. Senate, she’s qualified and exceptional.”
As Jackson’s supporters have noted, this is far from her first rodeo. She’s gone through several other confirmation hearings in the past. At the same time, however, there is no higher position than the Supreme Court. All of those past hearings were like practice runs before the real game. Now, Republicans will come out swinging harder than ever before.