As expected, the Senate confirmed Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson on Thursday with Utah’s Republican senators on opposite sides of the narrow bipartisan vote.
Sen. Mitt Romney was among three Republicans who joined all 50 Democrats in the 53-47 vote confirming Jackson, who will be the first Black woman to serve on the nation’s highest court. Jackson will replace Justice Stephen Breyer, who announced his retirement effective at the end of the court’s current term this summer.
In a video that has since gone viral, Romney is seen standing alone applauding Jackson’s confirmation as his Republican colleagues, including Utah Sen. Mike Lee, walk out of the Senate chamber after the vote.
Lee voted against her confirmation. He said he found her to be a great person with impressive academic and professional credentials but takes issue with her approach to jurisprudence.
“I’d love to be able to support her. I can’t,” he said at a news conference with GOP senators Thursday.
Lee cited Jackson’s unwillingness to share her judicial philosophy during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month. He said he found her judicial record “troubling,” especially her handing out “unconscionable and inexplicably” light sentences in child pornography cases.
Romney did not issue a statement after the confirmation vote.
In an earlier statement, he said after reviewing Jackson’s record as a federal district and appeals court judge and her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he concluded she is a well-qualified jurist and person of honor. He said he doesn’t expect to agree with every decision she may make on the Supreme Court, but he believes she more than meets the standard of excellence and integrity.
Romney voted against Jackson’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last summer.
“In the prior confirmation, I was concerned that she was outside the mainstream and as a result of our meeting for an hour together and reviewing her testimony before Congress, I became convinced that she’s within the mainstream,” he told reporters this week.
Republicans on the Judiciary Committee assert Jackson is outside the mainstream, particularly regarding her lesser sentences in child sexual exploitation cases.
In a lengthy speech on the Senate floor Wednesday night, Lee laid out his opposition to Jackson’s confirmation.
A nominee who claims to have no judicial philosophy is either being misleading or unsuited for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, he said.
“A judge without a judicial philosophy is no more useful than a pastor without a theology. It’s just someone making it up as they go along, dressing up their opinions as holy writ,” Lee said in his speech.
Jackson explained during the hearings that she has a methodology for deciding cases, which Lee said amounts to nothing more than a recitation of what judges do but not how they do it.
Lee said Democrats on the committee told Republicans to look at Jackson’s record to understand her judicial philosophy but were denied access to relevant documents.
Jackson, he said, acted outside her jurisdiction in some cases involving the Trump administration to reach her preferred policy outcome.
“Every part of Judge Jackson’s record, that is every part that we’ve been given, seems to indicate something of a desire to separate herself from grounding principles in order to reach her desired outcomes,” Lee said.
“Some colleagues on my side of the aisle, I thought, asked respectful questions, and were able to elicit responses from her that I think were very helpful to those that are making an evaluation,” he told CNN’s Kasie Hunt last week.
But he said, “I thought some were preparing for their presidential campaign. And were, if you will, doing the things you have to do to get on TV, which I think is unfortunate.”