Marsha Blackburn: 'Stunned' by lack of 'concrete answers' from Ketanji Brown Jackson in hearings

Jackson "is going to push the boundaries farther to the left," the Tennessee Republican senator warned Thursday. "She clearly comes out of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party."

Updated: March 24, 2022 - 11:00pm

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Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said Thursday she was "stunned" at Ketanji Brown Jackson's unresponsiveness to questions about when life begins and the definition of a woman — questions that proved to be defining moments of the Supreme Court nominee's confirmation hearings, which concluded Wednesday.

"Do you agree with Justice Ginsburg that there are physical differences between men and women that are enduring?" Blackburn asked Jackson Tuesday.

“Senator, respectfully I am not familiar with that particular quote or case, so it's hard for me to comment," she said.

Blackburn then asked her to provide a definition for a woman.

"Can I provide a definition? No," Jackson said. "I can't."

"You can't?" Blackburn asked.

"Not in this context," Jackson said. "I'm not a biologist."

Parents want a Supreme Court justice "who is going to be able to defend the rights of every American — male or female — and they want somebody who is going to be there to protect the individual," Blackburn told the John Solomon Reports podcast Thursday. "And I was really quite stunned that she was not able to give me more concrete answers."

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) asked Jackson during the hearings, "When does life begin, in your opinion?"

"I don't know," Jackson replied, later adding, "I have personal, religious, and otherwise beliefs that have nothing to do with the law in terms of when life begins."

In her questioning of Jackson, Blackburn asked about Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion ruling which the Supreme Court is reconsidering in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization

"Do you commit to respecting the court's decision if it rules that Roe was wrongly decided and that the issue of abortion should be sent back to the states?" Blackburn asked the nominee.

"Whatever the Supreme Court decides in Dobbs will be the precedent of the Supreme Court — it will be worthy of respect in the sense that it is precedent," Jackson responded, "and I commit to treating it as I would any other precedent of the Supreme Court."

Blackburn recalled that Jackson said under Senate questioning that she "can't talk about about" protecting the rights of the unborn and babies who survive botched abortions. "Well, of course she should have been able to talk about if she believes in life or not," Blackburn said.

In a 2015 lecture on "fairness in sentencing," Jackson acknowledged a role for  critical race theory (CRT) in sentencing — a source of "serious concerns" for Blackburn.

"So that would indicate a bias that she has brought into her decision-making process," said Blackburn. "And when I talk to Tennesseeans, they want equal access to the courts, they want equal justice for all. And they don't want to be before a jurist who is going to be biased in the way they look at the application of the law."

Jackson dismissed concerns about her views on the connection between CRT and the law during an exchange Tuesday with Sen. Ted Cruz.

CRT "doesn’t come up in the work that I do as a judge," she told the Texas Republican.

Blackburn said Jackson's record of light sentencing as a judge suggests she's more of an activist than a jurist.

"[T]he activism did come up, and we talked about that in her sentencing practices for hardened criminals," she said. "She wanted to release all the detainees — all 1,561 that were held in federal prison. She lamented that she was not able to release them all. But she did release a murderer who had murdered a U.S. Marshal, she released a bank robber addicted to heroin, she released a fentanyl drug dealer — all three of them on compassionate release."

The senator has previously noted that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jackson wanted to release all federal prisoners, an issue she returned to in her questioning of the nominee on Monday.

"At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic," she reminded Jackson, "you advocated — and again I quote — [that] 'each and every criminal defendant in D.C. Corrections custody should be released.' That would have been 1,500 criminals back on the street if you had had your way."

Jackson "is going to push the boundaries farther to the left," Blackburn warned in the JSR podcast interview on Thursday. "She clearly comes out of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

"And what we need are judges that are going to be well-tempered on the court, and that are going to be able to look at each issue from a constitutional basis. You notice, she would never give us her opinion on court packing, nor would she give us her judicial philosophy."

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