Senate Republicans have spent the last several weeks promising to teach their Democratic colleagues how to fairly and respectfully treat a U.S. Supreme Court nominee chosen by a president of the opposite party. They have spent the first days of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation hearings doing exactly what they vowed not to do.
Justice Stephen Breyer announced his pending retirement in January. President Joe Biden named Jackson to replace Breyer, whom she clerked for, making Jackson the first Black woman to be nominated to the high court in U.S. history. Senate Republicans — still angry that some past GOP presidents' nominees had been opposed by Democratic senators over their extreme views and allegations of sexual predation — used the opportunity to relitigate 35 years' worth of grievances by promising to set a higher standard this time.
"The nominee, the Senate, the Court, and the American people all deserve a process that is free of the embarrassing antics that have become the Democratic Party's routine whenever a Republican president nominates a new Justice. The baseless smears. The shameless distortions," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on March 1.
"I'm going to listen to the hearings. And by the way, she'll be treated much better than Democrats typically treated Republican nominees like Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh," the Kentucky Republican told CBS News on Sunday. "It will be a respectful, deep dive into her record, which I think is entirely appropriate for a lifetime appointment."
On Monday, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), also called for "a thorough, respectful process."
"We will conduct a thorough, exhaustive examination of Judge Jackson's record and views. We won't try to turn this into a spectacle based on alleged process fouls," he insisted.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) promised the hearings "won't be a circus."
"There won't be any questioning of where you go to church, what kind of groups you're in in church, how you decide to raise your kids, what you believe, and how you believe in God. Nobody's gonna do that to you. And that's a good thing," Graham vowed on Monday. "The one thing I can promise you: You will not be vilified, you will not be attacked for your religious views."
Those promises did not last very long.
On Tuesday morning, the Republican National Committee tweeted out a racist GIF with Jackson's initials replaced by the letters CRT, baselessly tying the widely respected appellate court judge to critical race theory, an academic framework used mainly in graduate schools to examine the history and structure of racism in the United States.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) focused not on her judicial record and views, but on asking her about critical race theory. He seized on her service on the board of a private school in Washington, D.C., that uses anti-racist books in its curriculum and went so far as to ask Jackson if she agreed with the idea that "babies are racist."
Days before the hearing, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) falsely accused Jackson of showing "a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker." Hawley used his time Tuesday to grill Jackson about child abuse cases before accusing her of an "alarming trend of lenient sentencing in child pornography cases."
Despite a constitutional prohibition against religious tests for public office and his own promises not to ask about her faith, Graham himself demanded that Jackson tell him her religious affiliation, questioned how often she attends church, and asked, "On a scale of one to 10, how faithful would you say you are, in terms of religion?"
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) pressed Jackson to praise the 1991 nomination of Justice Clarence Thomas, an archconservative who was accused of serial sexual harassment, as a "historic event" worthy of celebration.
Grassley and several GOP committee members also quizzed Jackson on her policy views — matters they previously said were off-limits, as the judiciary does not make legislative decisions.
Despite the GOP's attacks on Jackson, polls show the public strongly supports her confirmation to the nation's high court. A Gallup poll released Wednesday found that 58% of Americans believe the Senate should confirm Biden's pick. That is the second-highest level of initial support of any nominee in the poll's decadeslong history.
Ignoring his stated plan not to focus on "alleged process fouls," Grassley and his colleagues began Wednesday morning's hearing by complaining about the way Democrats had handled the first day of hearings.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) then complained about the "inappropriate" and "abhorrent" way Democratic senators treated Donald Trump-nominated Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett during their Senate confirmation hearings before claiming, "I'm so glad that, for the most part, we've behaved in an appropriate manner here."
Reprinted with permission from American Independent