Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced he would vote against Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court after Jackson’s confirmation hearings concluded on Thursday.
“I enjoyed meeting the nominee. I went into the Senate process with an open mind,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “But after studying the nominee’s record, and watching her performance this week, I cannot and will not support Judge Jackson for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.”
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McConnell’s announcement comes after nearly one week of questioning by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Republican Senators like Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) focused on her “alarming pattern” of giving extremely lenient sentences to child sex offenders.
Hawley questioned Jackson about her ruling in United States v. Hawkins, where she sentenced an individual caught with over 30 explicit photographs and videos of young children to only three months in prison.
Cruz asked about her ruling in United States v. Chazin, where Jackson issued a 28-month sentence despite federal guidelines calling for 84 to 92 months in prison.
Jackson offered no substantive defense of her sentences in the eight child porn cases she heard as a federal District Court judge during her hearings. Instead, she told Sen. Cruz, “no one case can stand in for a judge’s entire sentencing record. I’ve sentenced more than 100 people. You have eight or nine cases in that chart.”
McConnell called Jackson out for blaming Congress for her alleged soft-on-crime stance. McConnell said:
It was not reassuring to hear a Judge Jackson essentially say that if senators want her to be tough on crime, we need to change the law, take away her discretion and force her to do it. That response seems to confirm that deeply held personal policy views seep into her jurisprudence. And that is exactly what the record suggests.
McConnell also cited Jackson’s refusal to answer whether she is for or against court-packing as a reason for his decision. He said:
Judge Jackson refuses to reject a fringe position that Democrats should try to pack the Supreme Court. Justice Ginsburg and Justice Breyer had no problem denouncing this unpopular view and defending their institution. I assumed this would be an easy softball for Judge Jackson, but it wasn’t. The nominee suggested there are two legitimate sides to the issue. She testified she has a view on the matter but would not share it.
“The most radical pro-court packing fringe groups badly wanted this nominee for this vacancy. Judge Jackson was the court packers pick, and she testified like it,” McConnell added.
One of the “fringe” pro-court packing groups McConnell likely referenced is Demand Justice, a dark money group that led efforts to get Justice Stephen Breyer to retire after he spoke out against packing the Court.
Demand Justice’s former deputy chief counsel Paige Herwig is now in charge of President Joe Biden’s judicial nomination process.
McConnell also characterized Jackson’s views as “a perfect summary of judicial activism,” and said her views are aligned with judicial activist Justice William Brennan. McConnell said:
Late on Tuesday, after hours of questioning, I believe we may have witnessed a telling moment under questioning about judicial activism. Judge Jackson bluntly said this quote, ‘Well, anytime the Supreme Court has five votes, then they have a majority for whatever opinion they determine’ and quote ‘that isn’t just a factual observation.’
It is a clear echo of a famous quotation from perhaps the most famous judicial activist of all times, the arch liberal William Brennan. The late Justice Brennan told people the most important rule in constitutional law was the rule of five with five votes. The majority can do whatever it wants.
“It’s a recipe for courts to wander into policymaking and prevent healthy democratic compromise. This is the misunderstanding of the separation of powers that I’ve spent my entire career fighting against.” McConnell concluded.