WASHINGTON – Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson faces another day of questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, as hearings continue over her historic nomination to be the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.
Senators asked the judge about a wide range of topics Tuesday, including about her judicial philosophy, her faith, her work as a former federal public defender and sentences she handed down as a District Court judge in Washington.
Many of the same themes are likely to emerge again Wednesday as the same 22 members of the committee get a second – slightly shorter – round of questions. Democrats are planning to finish the hearings on Thursday and hope to move Jackson to a final confirmation vote by early April.
The hearing will kick off at 9 a.m. ET.
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Updates from day two:Jackson speaks on abortion, faith and race in hearing
Romney: ‘No there, there.’
At least one key Republican senator isn’t buying the criticism of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s record on sentencing in child pornography cases: Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah.
“It struck me that it was off course, meaning the attacks were off course that came from some,” Romney told The Washington Post on Tuesday. “And there is no there, there.”
That’s significant because Romney is one of a handful of GOP senators who could potentially vote for Jackson.
– John Fritze
Sentencing likely to reappear
Particularly toward the end of Tuesday’s hearing, Republicans peppered Jackson with questions about sentences she handed down as a federal trial court judge. Those inquiries were focused on seven cases involving what’s known as “non-production” child pornography offenses, in other words possessing or distributing the material.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., has led the charge on the issue, despite pushback from Democrats, the White House and some independent experts who note that the U.S. Sentencing Commission itself reports that the majority of the child pornography offenses at issue result in sentences that are below the federal guidelines – which are advisory.
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Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Hawley said he hadn’t yet decided what questions he would ask during his second round. Given his focus on the issue so far, it seemed certain that he would raise it again Wednesday, perhaps focusing on transcripts from court proceedings Jackson held in the cases.
“Those were tough questions,” Hawley acknowledged. “I asked her and I thought she handled them well.”
But Hawley indicated he wasn’t convinced by Jackson’s answers.
“Her argument to me was, ‘Hey, this is tough, but I’m doing the best I can.’ And my argument to her was, ‘I don’t agree with your judgment,'” Hawley said. “That’s just a professional disagreement.”
But Senate Judiciary Committee Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the issues Hawley was raising were at least partly the fault of Congress for not stepping in to update the guidelines.
“This is an extraordinary challenge to every judge because Congress won’t touch this hot-button issue,” Durbin said late Tuesday. “Judges are stuck.”
– John Fritze
Plan for Day 3
After a marathon 13-hour session Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee was angling for a shorter – slightly shorter – round of questions in the third day of hearings.
To start with, because Tuesday’s hearing went so long, two members of the committee couldn’t squeeze in their first round of questions: Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Jon Ossoff, D-Ga. They’ll start off the hearings Wednesday and will get 30 minutes each.
Then the rest of the committee will get a second round of questions, at 20 minutes each.
“I’m going to land this plane,” Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., quipped as he ended his questioning late Tuesday. “We’ll take off again tomorrow.”
The senators will also meet in a closed session to discuss Jackson’s FBI background investigation, a standard procedure for every Supreme Court nominee.
The hearings are supposed to conclude Thursday with testimony from outside groups, such as the American Bar Association.
– John Fritze
How many days will confirmation hearings last?
The Judiciary Committee’s hearings last four days total, with two days of direct questioning of Jackson.
On the final day – Thursday – the committee will hear testimony from the American Bar Association and other outside witnesses. They will have five minutes each for statements, and question rounds will also be five minutes.