Republicans focus on Jackson’s positions on terrorists, sex offenders as nomination hearing opens

Democrats have overwhelmingly supported Jackson's nomination.

Updated: March 20, 2022 - 11:11pm

Republicans are stressing the need to closely review Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's record as the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to begin hearings on Monday for the first black woman nominated to the Supreme Court.

The GOP is already facing accusations of racism from outlets such as the Daily Kos, Slate and Vanity Fair for questioning whether Jackson should be confirmed.

Jackson has been criticized for her vehement defense of terrorism suspects as a public defender. She has also faced concerns over a paper she wrote in the 1990s criticizing "excessiveness" in punishments for sex offenders. 

Senate Judiciary Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said earlier this month that some in GOP leadership are instructing members to avoid a fight over Jackson as memories of the brutal confirmation hearing for Justice Brett Kavanaugh are still fresh. 

"There are some in Republican leadership that are saying, 'Well, don't pick a fight ... Just kind of let this go forward,'" Cruz said on an episode of his podcast "Verdict."

Cruz said he believes Brown will get confirmed.

"Barring something — a big smoking gun that nobody knows about now, every Democrat will vote for her. So if nothing else happened, and they got all the Democrats, she'd get confirmed," he said, adding, "You'd have to think there's a real likelihood that several Republicans vote for her."

Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah are likely to vote for Jackson, Cruz said. He also said he "could see a retiring Republican senator or two voting for her."

Cruz said he's encouraging Republicans to not "get nasty and personal," but still be tough in questioning.

"We shouldn't behave like the Democrats did on Brett Kavanaugh," Cruz said. "We shouldn't engage in personal slurs and slander, but we ought to have a vigorous process that questions her on the record because these issues matter. And I think most of the Republicans agree with that but maybe not everybody."

Senate Judiciary member Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has been criticized by some on the left for his vocal scrutiny of Jackson's stance on sex offenders.

"Judge Jackson has yet to address her alarming record on child porn offenders," Hawley tweeted on Friday. "But rather than ask her questions, the Washington Post is regurgitating White House talking points."

In a long Twitter thread on Wednesday, Hawley questioned the implications of Jackson's history.

"Judge Jackson has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker," Hawley alleged. "She's been advocating for it since law school. This goes beyond 'soft on crime.' I'm concerned that this a record that endangers our children."

He also said that as a federal judge Jackson "deviated from the federal sentencing guidelines in favor of child porn offenders" in every child porn case he found records for.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called Hawley "part of the fringe within the Republican party" in response to the Missouri senator's questioning. 

"This was a man who was fist-bumping the murderous mob that descended on the Capitol on January 6th of the last year," Durbin told ABC on Sunday. "He doesn't have the credibility he thinks he does."

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said that as the only Republican woman on the Senate Judiciary Committee she plans to "give voice to the questions and concerns that conservative women have as they look at the federal bench and the individual that is going to take the seat."

Blackburn also told The Federalist that the Kavanaugh hearing will shape how the Senate treats Jackson.

Kavanaugh's confirmation is "why now people want it to be focused on the issues," Blackburn told the outlet in an article published Friday. "They want it to be very thorough, they want to go into someone's record.

"Tennesseans ... were just shocked at the conduct of some of the Democrats" during Kavanaugh's hearing, she said.

When asked why Republicans were not going to follow Democrats' example and "break all of these norms" as well, Blackburn stressed the need for transparency. 

"The way to stop it is to show the record ... of the individuals, whether it is Judge Jackson, whether it is nominees for any of the other federal courts," she told The Federalist. "Sunlight is the best on this. And to bring attention to the records, to the writings, the rulings, the opinions, the number of times that have been overturned, respect for the Constitution, respect for the rule of law. That is the best way to bring attention to an issue and preserve this nation's founding and the fundamentals of the Constitution which have kept us as a democratic republic."

Democrats have overwhelmingly supported Jackson's nomination. 

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who came under fire last summer for being a member of an allegedly all-white country club, called Jackson "an excellent nominee with impeccable qualifications."

House Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said that Jackson should be confirmed, adding, "Then expand the Supreme Court."