In 20 Minutes, A Microcosm Of The Jackson Hearings

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL). TPM Illustration/Getty Images
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Your briefing on developments in the Supreme Court confirmation battle.

The Senate Judiciary Committee met in executive session Monday to “consider” a slate of nominations including Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s. The real vote will happen next week after Republicans requested a delay, so Monday’s session involved brief comments from senators with promises that they’ll elaborate further at the vote. 

Still, it was enough to capture a fundamental dynamic that pervaded the days of questioning last week. 

“The majority of members on both sides — the majority — were fair and respectful,” committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) said Monday. “Unfortunately, in the words of one Republican member of the committee, there were examples of a word I have not heard before: ‘jackassery,’ and playing to social media and the cameras.” 

Durbin credited Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) specifically for his behavior, something he’s done repeatedly throughout the last week of hearings. 

Durbin then debunked some frequent GOP attack lines from the hearings, including the “outright falsehood” that Jackson was out of the mainstream with her sentencing of possessors of child pornography. He quipped that those attacks “may play well to the QAnon crowd and the fringe conspiracy theories that helped drive the insurrection on January 6, 2021.”

Take a look at what the much-lauded Grassley said in response during his few minutes at the mic: 

“We also received an unconfirmed chart of probation sentencing for 14 cases from Judge Jackson and the White House that the Democrats have attempted to use to defend her record,” he said. “And as far as the further inquiries go about how the nominee handled child exploitation cases, we’re looking at her record — that’s what we’re supposed to do. It appears the White House wants to hide that record.” 

While Grassley didn’t use his time at the hearings to hector Jackson on asked-and-answered criticisms based on lines cherry-picked from a few child pornography cases like Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) did, he’s certainly propping up their widely-debunked claims now.

It’s an ongoing dynamic that frustrates Democrats as much as it did when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) hugged Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) after the Amy Coney Barrett hearings. Republicans pshaw the rules — whether it be waiting to confirm a Supreme Court nominee until after an election, or dropping a line of attack after it’s been discredited — and reap the rewards. Democrats often respond with comity. 

Other Business 

  • Democrats on the committee also took a few moments Monday to relay their personal experiences with hostility at abortion clinics. A more minor GOP line of attack during the hearings centered on a filing Jackson was involved in that pejoratively described anti-abortion activists who shout at women on their way into the clinics, trying to dissuade them from going through with the procedure. 
  • Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) told of a 1994 shooting that left two dead at the clinics. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) recalled receiving a bullet-proof vest from a constituent because she spent time at the clinics in support. 
  • Whitehouse said he wanted to share a recollection that was “very much at odds with the atmosphere of compassion and love” one of the minority’s witnesses described outside the clinics. “This was an atmosphere of guns, terror, screaming, murder — it was a grim time.”
  • Grassley confirmed that he wanted the vote “held over” — a minority party delay that will schedule the vote for next Monday. A full floor vote would likely be later next week.
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