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Supreme Court confirmation hearings: Ketanji Brown Jackson makes first appearance before Senate

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
Posted at 6:45 AM, Mar 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-21 12:47:08-04

The Senate Judiciary Committee has opened the Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Ketanji Brown Jackson, the appellate court judge that President Joe Biden has tapped to replace Justice Stephen Breyer upon his upcoming retirement.

If the Senate confirms Jackson, she will be the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

Monday's hearings began with opening statements from committee members, including chairman Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and ranking member Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

Lawmakers were in agreement that they welcomed Jackson's diverse background on the high court.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said he was in favor of having the court "look more like America," and Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy said that Jackson's nomination marked "a new page in the history of America — a good page."

Republican senators also spent much of their opening statements pledging a challenging but fair confirmation process, blaming Democrats for the controversy surrounding the 2018 confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the sexual assault accusations that came with it.

Jackson is expected to provide her own opening statements this afternoon.

Senators will question Jackson on Tuesday and Wednesday. Hearings will conclude on Thursday after a final day of hearings, at which Jackson will not be present.

Though Democrats have just a razor-thin margin in the Senate thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris' tiebreak vote, only 50 votes are needed to confirm Jackson to the high court. However, if no Republicans choose to vote for Jackson, every Democrat will need to support her nomination, and so far, moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have yet to pledge their support for Jackson.

In questioning later this week, lawmakers are expected to address Jackson's time defending Guantanamo Bay detainees and her past sentences for some sex offenders, which some conservatives say were too lenient.

Democrats will also likely ask about Jackson's views on abortion. While she hasn't issued many rulings on the issue, Democrats assume she supports abortion rights.

Jackson's potential appointment to the Supreme Court likely won't influence its ideological makeup. In replacing Breyer, Jackson would join the court's liberal contingent, which is currently outnumbered 3-6 by conservative-leaning justices.