During a PBS interview last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged the fact that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is “very intelligent” and “clearly qualified” for the Supreme Court, but he had a problem.
The Kentucky Republican said he’d suggested to the nominee, “in the nicest possible way,” to publicly oppose adding seats to the high court and applying term limits to justices. “She decided not to take a position on that,” the GOP leader said. “I wish she had.”
A week later, as NBC News reported, McConnell pointed to this same issue when explaining why he’ll vote to reject Jackson’s nomination.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Thursday that he will not vote to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, citing her responses this week to questions about “court packing.” ... McConnell suggested in his remarks that he thought Jackson would be an activist judge, and he faulted her for not taking a position on court packing — adding justices to the nine-member Supreme Court.
The fact the top Senate Republican, who’s politicized the judiciary in ways without modern precedent, will vote against a Democratic president’s Supreme Court nominee surprises no one. What’s notable is the rational McConnell came up with.
At issue is proposed legislation, which currently stands no realistic chance of success, to expand the court in response Trump-era abuses, including Senate Republicans’ decision to impose a lengthy blockade in 2016 in order to steal a seat from a Democratic administration. Altering the size of the Supreme Court in response to political circumstances has happened before, and advocates have urged policymakers to do it again.
The decision would fall on lawmakers and the White House, not justices. McConnell pressed Jackson to answer a question she would never be asked to consider as a member of the judiciary.
Indeed, when then-Judge Amy Coney Barrett faced similar questions during her Supreme Court confirmation hearings, the conservative told senators, “That is a question left open to Congress.” She added at the time that it would be inappropriate to “opine” on the matter.
McConnell shrugged off her response and rushed her nomination through the Senate. Two years later, Jackson echoed Barrett — only to have McConnell treat this as disqualifying.
The Republican had weeks to come up with some kind of pretext. The fact that he was left with a claim that’s obviously unserious is emblematic of Jackson’s merits.
Of course, McConnell isn’t alone in coming up with wildly unpersuasive pretenses. The New York Times reported overnight:
Several Republican senators repeatedly and misleadingly suggested during this week’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson had given uncommonly lenient sentences to felons convicted of child sex abuse crimes. But all of the Republican critics had previously voted to confirm judges who had given out prison terms below prosecutor recommendations, the very bar they accused Judge Jackson of failing to clear.
The article pointed to several Senate Republicans — Missouri’s Josh Hawley, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, Arkansas’ Tom Cotton, and Texas’ Ted Cruz — who’ve spent the week attacking Jackson, claiming her sentences have been too lenient in cases involving images of child sex abuse. “But Mr. Hawley, Mr. Graham, Mr. Cotton and Mr. Cruz all voted to confirm judges nominated by President Donald J. Trump to appeals courts even though those nominees had given out sentences lighter than prosecutor recommendations in cases involving images of child sex abuse,” the Times added.
Cruz, meanwhile, tried to go on the offensive against Jackson by attacking the anti-racism books in the library of a private school where the judge is a trustee. The Texas Republican seemed unaware of the fact that his own children go to a different private school that has the same books in its library.
It’s as if GOP senators were given a month to come up with compelling reasons to do what they were going to do anyway, and they just couldn’t think of anything.
Ultimately, however, their partisan antics appear unlikely to affect Jackson’s chances: West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, Congress’ most conservative Democrat, issued a glowing endorsement of the Supreme Court nominee this morning.
Her odds of being confirmed are roughly 100%.