Why Mitt Romney will vote to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to Supreme Court — but Mike Lee will not
Lee calls judge’s record ‘disturbing.’ Romney says she meets standard of excellence and integrity
Calling her judicial record “disturbing” and “troubling,” Sen. Mike Lee voted against advancing the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the full Senate on Monday.
Meanwhile, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, announced later Monday that he will vote to confirm Jackson.
After reviewing Jackson’s record and testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Romney said he concluded that she is a well qualified jurist and a person of honor.
“While I do not expect to agree with every decision she may make on the court, I believe that she more than meets the standard of excellence and integrity. I congratulate Judge Jackson on her expected confirmation and look forward to her continued service to our nation,” he said in a statement.
Romney, who is not a member of the Judiciary Committee, joins Sens. Susan Collins, of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, as the only Republicans saying they will support Jackson.
I intend to vote in support of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. My statement: pic.twitter.com/uGaxx8sJn5— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) April 4, 2022
Lee cited Jackson’s lesser sentences in child pornography cases and a child rape case as well as cases in which he says she acted outside her jurisdiction among his reason for opposing her confirmation. Lee also said Jackson declined to answer basic questions, including her definition of woman and her views on packing the Supreme Court.
“We’re told to look at her record, and yet much of what we see from her record is disturbing,” Lee told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
They told us to look at judicial philosophy, but Judge Jackson said she doesn’t have one. They leaned on her record, but what we have of her record is troubling. They said to look at her answers, but she didn't answer basic questions & endorsed judicial activism. I will vote no. pic.twitter.com/iVmZlUSbbr— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) April 4, 2022
The committee vote ended an 11-11 tie, evenly split along party lines. Senate Democrats made a motion to discharge the deadlocked nomination to the Senate floor through a procedural vote.
Late Monday, the Senate voted 53-47 to advance Jackson’s nomination out of committee and to the full Senate. Romney, Murkowski and Collins joined all 50 Democrats in the affirmative vote. A final confirmation vote is expected Thursday or Friday.
“This committee’s action today is nothing less than making history. I’m honored to be part of it,” Committee Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said as the panel’s meeting began Monday morning.
Jackson would be the first Black woman to serve on the nation’s highest court if confirmed.
“It is important to understand what kind of Supreme Court justice she would be, and that’s why this can’t be something that simply focuses on the historic nature of the nomination,” Lee said.
Durbin said Jackson displayed evenhandedness as a federal judge, ruling for and against law enforcement, immigration enforcement, Republican and Democratic administration and labor groups.
“Her methodology is one that promotes fairness, independence and judicial restraint,” he said. “It’s reflected in her decision-making.”
Lee said when Republicans asked about Jackson’s judicial philosophy, they were told to look at her record.
“We’ve got a lot of things in her record that we found concerning, including a couple of cases in which she acted without jurisdiction,” he said.
In both circumstances, Lee said, Jackson issued injunctions to invalidate actions taken by the Trump administration that she apparently disagreed with. The “left-leaning” U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit overturned both decisions, he said.
Those cases haven’t received as much attention as some of her other rulings and sentencing decisions, but “they’re very, very significant. They’re deeply troubling to me,” Lee said.
Judges who act when they lack jurisdiction or when they don’t have a valid cause of action upon which to grant relief, “that’s someone who’s cutting at heart of the limits on judicial authority and creating a dangerous set of circumstances,” he said.
Committee members weren’t given access to Jackson’s full record on another “disturbing” line of rulings dealing with child pornography cases, Lee said. He pressed the committee to make available confidential pre-sentence reports that contain victim information in those cases.
Lee said Republicans don’t want to make those documents public but could review them in a secure setting.
Durbin said “not on my watch” would those records involving sensitive information about children be made available.
“I’m not going to be the first senator to open up that door. I think too much of the process and the promise of confidentiality to do it, nor do I think it’s necessary to judge this judicial nominee,” he said.
During her confirmation hearings before the committee last month, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., claimed her treatment of child sex offenders showed an “alarming pattern” of leniency. Jackson pushed back against the charge under questioning by various senators. Lee said Jackson “departed downward” from the federal sentencing guidelines when meting out punishment for the offender in 10 child pornography cases she handled.
Durbin said most Republicans treated Jackson with respect but some did not.
“Instead, they repeatedly interrupted and badgered Judge Jackson and accused her of vile things in front of her parents, her husband and her children. There was table-pounding — some literal — from a few of my colleagues. They repeated discredited claims about Judge Jackson’s character,” Durbin said.
Lee said he also was concerned about Jackson’s “inability or unwillingness” to answer basic questions, including Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., asking, “What is a woman?” He also said Jackson refused to respond to his question about her views on efforts to pack the Supreme Court.
“These troubling, troublingly inadequate answers that she provides because she doesn’t answer them at all,” he said. “Questions that she could easily answer, should easily answer and that fact that she doesn’t and hasn’t and won’t is concerning.”
Jackson’s judicial record doesn’t support what Democrats say it supports, Lee said. And “even more troublingly” the Republicans haven’t been given the stuff that Democrats say is supportive of her record, he said.
“Why? This is not a vacancy that currently exists on the Supreme Court. There’s no reason to rush this, so why not give us access to the documents that we need, documents that she insists maintain and defend the sentences she issued in those cases,” Lee said.
Jackson would replace Justice Stephen Breyer who is retiring at the end of court’s current term this summer.