WASHINGTON — The hearing for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson begins March 21, the Senate Judiciary Committee chair announced on Wednesday.
The chairman, Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, announced the timetable and joined Senator Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat and Majority Leader, to urge Republicans to consider voting for Judge Jackson, even though nearly all of them voted against her confirmation last year for a job with the appeals court.
“She deserves support from across the aisle,” said Mr. Schumer, who repeatedly called the nominee “amazing” after a private session with her just outside the Senate floor. “I’m hopeful that quite a few Republicans will vote for her, given who she is.”
Judge Jackson, 51, has been confirmed three times by the Senate. The last time was in June, when the 53-to-44 vote that confirmed her to the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, backed three Republicans.
Still, even those Republicans’ votes aren’t assured this time around. Once routine, strong bipartisan support for a Supreme Court candidate is a thing of the past. To change that dynamic, Judge Jackson, the first black woman ever nominated to court, and Democrats must convincingly demonstrate that she is highly qualified and deserving of a seat on the court, even if Republicans consider her too liberal.
Believing that the judge is her own best lawyer, Mr. Durbin said she would be available to all members of the Judiciary Committee before the upcoming hearing, as well as other lawmakers who want one-on-one meetings. One Republican seen by Democrats as a potential vote for Judge Jackson is Maine Senator Susan Collins, who voted for her last June. Ms. Collins has a meeting with the judge next week.
“It is absolutely essential that I sit down and interview her,” Ms Collins said on Wednesday.
mr. Durbin said he reached out to a handful of other Republican senators he believed would also vote for Judge Jackson. Democrats also say a comprehensive questionnaire the White House sent back to the Judiciary Committee Monday should help Republicans get a complete picture of Judge Jackson, as it gives her opinion in more than 500 district lawsuits and a wealth of other information.
“For those who want to know who she is and what she thinks, we have a lot of evidence,” said Mr Durbin.
The 24 days between the president’s announcement of Ms. Jackson’s nomination and the start of her hearing is about half the time of most nominations in the recent past, but Republicans set a new 16-day precedent when they turned themselves in. by the confirmation of Judge Amy Comey, Barrett rushed just before the 2020 presidential election.
“It’s hard for them to claim that we’re doing anything special,” said Mr Durbin.
Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, who met with Judge Jackson Wednesday afternoon, said his goal was to “have a fair trial, a dignified trial.”
“I just think we will fulfill our constitutional responsibility of advice and consent with dignity and fairness and most importantly, thoroughness,” he said.
Judge Jackson also met with Kentucky Republican Minority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell, who questioned her about what he calls her “thin” professional history from her year on the appeals court, as well as her support of progressive activists who have called for an extension of the nine-member court or other changes to be made to soften the influence of the six-member conservative majority.
“You have to wonder why these left-wing organizations have worked so hard to boost Judge Jackson to this potential promotion,” Mr. McConnell said Tuesday before meeting the nominee.
Courtesy attendees tend to be tight-lipped about details of the discussions, and Wednesday was no exception. But Doug Jones, the former Democratic senator from Alabama who serves as Judge Jackson’s “sherpa” to guide her through the Senate, said the first day went well.
“It was a very good day; very, very pleasant encounters,” Mr Jones told reporters, saying the sessions so far have focused on her personal background and what he called her “impeccable credentials.”
“This was a really good start,” said Mr. Jones. “And we’ve been looking forward to getting this process started, and today was a good day to get it started.”
Like others on both sides, Mr. Jones said he expected the upcoming hearing to be less tense and toxic than recent confirmation battles, especially the showdown with Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh.
“I think it will be very respectful regardless of what has happened in the past,” said Mr Jones. “That’s proof that I think about her as much as I think about anything else.”
Following the usual practice in such high-profile confirmations, Mr. Durbin said the first day would be devoted to Judge Jackson’s introductory remarks and those selected to nominate her, as well as hearing the 22 members of the Judiciary Committee. Senators will then question Judge Jackson over the next two days. mr. Durbin said he hoped to complete the hearing on March 24 after testimony from outside witnesses.
If all goes to plan, the schedule will allow for a full Senate vote on the nomination before a two-week recess slated to begin April 8. Acting by that date remains the goal of the Senate Democrats, even though Judge Stephen G. Breyer, the judge who would replace Judge Jackson, may not formally retire until this summer, when the current Supreme Court term ends.
“There’s no reason to wait,” said Mr. Durbin.
While they increasingly hope to win at least some Republican backing for Judge Jackson, Democrats are determined to see her confirmed no matter what.
“She belongs in court,” said Mr. Schumer.