Sen. Mike Lee says it’s wrong for President Joe Biden to tout Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court before her qualifications for the job.

“One of the very first things he did was make a reference, albeit slightly indirect, to her race and to her gender. I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think that’s right,” the Utah Republican said on Fox News this past weekend.

“We don’t make decisions in this country on the basis of someone’s race, and I think that was inappropriate for the president both before and immediately after making the nomination.”

Biden promised during the 2020 presidential campaign that he would nominate a Black woman to the nation’s highest court. He made history and kept that pledge with Jackson’s nomination last week.

“I’ve said all along I don’t think it’s fair to her to do this,” said Lee said, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I don’t think it was fair beforehand and I don’t think it was fair when he made the call to her.”

The president is expected to talk about the historic nomination in his State of the Union address Tuesday.

Jackson, a Harvard law school graduate, currently serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, considered the second most powerful court in the country. She would succeed retiring Justice Stephen Breyer if the Senate confirms her. Jackson is scheduled to start meeting with senators on Wednesday.

Neither Lee nor Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, voted to confirm Jackson to the appellate bench in June 2021.

What Mitt Romney, Mike Lee say about President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court choice
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, poses for a portrait on Friday, Feb., 18, 2022, in her office at the court in Washington. President Joe Biden nominated Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court, making her the first Black woman selected to serve on a court that once declared her race unworthy of citizenship and endorsed segregation. | Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press

Romney said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he’s going to take a “deep dive” into Jackson’s nomination and talk to her about some of his concerns when she was previously before the Senate.

“Look, her nomination and her confirmation would or will be historic. Like anyone nominated by the president of the United States, she deserves a very careful look, a very deep dive,” he said. “I’ll provide fresh eyes to that evaluation and hope that I’ll be able to support her in the final analysis.”

In a statement last week, Romney said Jackson is an experienced jurist, and that her “historic” nomination will inspire others. He said he believes the Supreme Court justice must faithfully apply the law and the Constitution impartially and regardless of policy preferences.

Perspective: Confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson. She is qualified

Lee said last week that he and Jackson disagree on many points of law, and he has grave concerns about the precedent she would seek to set as a Supreme Court justice. He said fairness and objectivity will be his guiding principles as he evaluates her.

When he has an opportunity to meet with her, Lee said he wants to find out her judicial philosophy and how she would characterize it. He also said he wants to know who her judicial role models are.

“I want to know how exactly she would approach the task of construing a federal statute and resolving ambiguities,” Lee said, adding past Biden judicial nominees have refused to answer those types of questions.

Lee also told Fox News that the Senate is going to consider Jackson’s nomination with the “solemnity and seriousness” it deserves and thoroughly review her prior decisions and writings.

But Senate Republicans, he said, will not engage in the “politics of personal destruction.”

“You can go back a hundred years. You will not find an instance where that has happened. I wish I could say the same for the Democrats in the Senate, but I can’t,” Lee said.

Lee said there are “more instances than we can count on one hand” where Democrats have resorted to the politics of personal destruction regarding a Supreme Court nominee.