Democrats appear united on Jackson; GOP votes may be elusive

Mar 24, 2022, 9:07 PM | Updated: Mar 25, 2022, 9:33 pm
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson shakes hands with Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., ri...

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson shakes hands with Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., right, as she departs following her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Joe Manchin announced Friday that he plans to vote for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the Supreme Court, likely clearing the path for President Joe Biden’s historic nominee to be confirmed. But Democratic hopes of securing significant Republican support for Jackson’s nomination appear to be fading.

The West Virginia Democrat was a key vote to watch because he has bucked his party on some of its top domestic priorities. But he has yet to vote against any of Biden’s judicial nominees, and he said he will also support Jackson, who would become the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

“I am confident Judge Jackson is supremely qualified and has the disposition necessary to serve as our nation’s next Supreme Court Justice,” Manchin said in a statement, which came after four days of hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

He also noted that her family has spent time in West Virginia, and “her deep love of our state and commitment to public service were abundantly clear.”

Manchin’s announcement indicates that Jackson will likely have the support of all 50 Senate Democrats. Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who has joined Manchin in voting against large swaths of Biden’s domestic agenda, hasn’t yet said whether she will support her. But she too has supported all of the president’s judicial picks, including Jackson for the federal appeals court last year.

A united Democratic caucus would guarantee Jackson’s confirmation in the 50-50 Senate, as Vice President Kamala Harris could break a tie. Still, Democrats seem unlikely to confirm her with a robust bipartisan vote, dashing Biden’s hopes for a grand reset after partisan battles over other high court nominees.

On Thursday, just hours after the hearings came to a close, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in a Senate floor speech that he “cannot and will not” support Jackson for a lifetime appointment.

McConnell slammed the liberal groups that have supported Jackson, and he criticized her for refusing to take a position on the size of the nine-member court, even though that decision is ultimately up to Congress. Some advocacy groups have pushed for enlarging the court after three justices nominated by former President Donald Trump cemented a 6-3 conservative majority.

He also cited concerns about Jackson’s sentencing of criminal defendants, a subject that dominated much of the four days of hearings and was part of a coordinated GOP effort to portray her as soft on crime.

McConnell’s position was expected, but the leader’s quick declaration could prompt many of his fellow Republicans to follow suit, thwarting Biden’s efforts to bring back the overwhelming bipartisan votes that were commonplace for Supreme Court nominees when he first came to the Senate five decades ago.

“I think whomever I pick will get a vote from the Republican side,” Biden said after Justice Stephen Breyer announced he would step down from the court this summer. As he started his search for a replacement, the president made a point of inviting Republican senators to the White House to hear their advice.

While many GOP senators have praised Jackson’s vast experience and qualifications, it was clear at the hearings that Biden’s outreach had little effect.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee interrogated Jackson about her nine-year record as a federal judge, frequently interrupting her answers. Jackson, supported by committee Democrats, pushed back aggressively on Republicans who said she gave light sentences to sex offenders, explaining her sentencing process in detail and telling them “nothing could be further from the truth.”

One or more Republican could still cast a vote for Jackson’s confirmation, but the focus on crime dovetails with an emerging GOP theme for this year’s midterm elections and is likely to be decisive for many of them.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, who has been privately lobbying GOP colleagues to support Jackson, said after McConnell’s announcement that it will be “sad for our country and sad as a commentary on where the parties are today.”

In the final day of hearings on Thursday, a top lawyers’ group said its review of more than 250 judges and lawyers found Jackson has a “sterling” reputation and “exceptional” competence and is well qualified to sit on the Supreme Court.

Jackson would be the third Black justice, after Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, and the sixth woman. She would also be the first former public defender on the court, and the first justice with experience representing indigent criminal defendants since Marshall.

During questioning Tuesday and Wednesday, GOP senators aggressively queried Jackson on the sentences she handed down to child pornography offenders in her nine years as a federal judge, her legal advocacy on behalf of suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay, her thoughts on critical race theory and even her religious views.

Many of the hours of questioning were spent on the specifics of the child pornography cases, with the discussion led by several GOP senators who are eyeing the presidency.

Pushing back, Jackson said she bases sentences on many factors, not just federal guidelines. Sentencing is not a “numbers game,” she said, noting that there are no mandatory sentences for sex offenders and that there has been significant debate on the subject.

Some of those cases have given her nightmares, Jackson said, and were “among the worst that I have seen.”

The GOP criticism was countered by effusive praise from Democrats, and by reflections on the historic nature of her nomination.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who is Black, said he sees “my ancestors and yours” when he looks at Jackson.

“I know what it’s taken for you to sit here in this seat,” Booker said, as Jackson wiped away tears. “You have earned this spot.”

___

Associated Press writers Mark Sherman, Jessica Gresko, Lisa Mascaro and Colleen Long in Washington and Aaron Morrison in New York contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Two men share a meal in a makeshift tent camp outside the Petit Chateau reception center in Brussel...
Associated Press

EU migration impasse leaves many refugees out in the cold

BRUSSELS (AP) — Some refugees and asylum-seekers in Brussels have been spending months in between the Street of Palaces and the Small Castle — quite literally. Unfortunately, it’s not a dream come true at the end of their fearful flight from halfway across the globe. It’s a perpetual nightmare. Petit Chateau, which means small castle, […]
4 hours ago
Items are displayed in the "Boutique" at the Insight Women's Center, where clients can find clothes...
Associated Press

US states take control of abortion debate with funding focus

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Though the Insight Women’s Center sits at the epicenter of a reinvigorated battle in the nation’s culture wars, the only hint of its faith-based mission to dissuade people from getting abortions is the jazzy, piano rendition of “Jesus Loves Me” playing in a waiting room. The Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature is considering […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

India’s G-20 energy meet to balance renewables, fossil fuels

BENGALURU, India (AP) — Over 500 energy industry heavyweights and 30,000 participants will descend on the southern Indian city of Bengaluru on Monday to discuss the future of renewables and fossil fuels at India Energy Week — the first big ticket event of the country’s presidency of the Group of 20 leading economies. Speakers, including […]
1 day ago
FILE - Mega Millions lottery tickets and a wager slip are displayed, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, in Derry...
Arizona Sports

Drawing nears for $700M Powerball prize, 10th biggest in US

Another huge lottery jackpot will be on the line Saturday for players willing to put up $2 vs. daunting odds of actually winning the prize.
1 day ago
Chinese spy balloon flies above in Charlotte NC, United States on February 04, 2023. The Pentagon a...
Associated Press

US downs suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast

The United States on Saturday downed a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast after it traversed sensitive military sites.
1 day ago
A man works at an avocado orchard in Santa Ana Zirosto, Michoacan state, Mexico, Thursday, Jan. 26,...
Associated Press

Route to Super Bowl dangerous for Mexico’s avocado haulers

SANTA ANA ZIROSTO, Mexico (AP) — It is a long and sometimes dangerous journey for truckers transporting the avocados destined for guacamole on tables and tailgates in the United States during the Super Bowl. It starts in villages like Santa Ana Zirosto, high in the misty, pine-clad mountains of the western Mexico state of Michoacan. […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
Democrats appear united on Jackson; GOP votes may be elusive