GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina made clear Monday that efforts to browbeat Republicans into supporting Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court merely because she is the first African American woman nominee for the job will not work.
Jackson is President Joe Biden’s pick to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.
Addressing Jackson during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Graham cited two high-profiled judicial nominees that were blocked by Democrats during President George W. Bush’s tenure, even though the nominees were members of minority groups.
“As to the historic nature of your nomination, I understand, but when I get lectured by my Democratic colleagues, I remember Janice Rogers Brown, an African-American woman, who was filibustered by the same people praising you,” Graham said.
“I remember Miguel Estrada, one of the finest people I ever met. Completely wiped out. Didn’t make it through the Gang of 14, whatever gang I was in. I’ve been in so many I can’t remember. He didn’t make the cut,” the senator added.
Brown served on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia from 2005 to 2017 and prior to that on the California Supreme Court.
Then-President George W. Bush actually nominated her to the circuit court in 2003, but Democrats filibustered the appointment, citing her conservative judicial philosophy, The Associated Press reported.
In 2005, an agreement was reached between seven Republican and seven Democratic senators — the so-called “Gang of 14” Graham mentioned — to allow an up or down vote on Brown and other stalled Bush nominees.
Senator Graham slams Democrats for opposing conservative Black and Hispanic judicial nominees.
“I remember Janice Rodgers Brown, an African-American woman, that was filibustered by the same people praising you.” pic.twitter.com/c4EofNJJcp
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) March 21, 2022
Do you think Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will be confirmed to the Supreme Court?
When Rogers’ name was floated as a potential nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 2005, then-Sen. Joe Biden, who was a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, indicated she again would face a filibuster from Democrats.
Democrats did not even allow Estrada’s appointment to the D.C. circuit to go forward out of fear that Bush might then choose him as the first Latino for the Supreme Court, as the Washington Examiner’s Timothy Carney wrote in a 2013 piece that cited Democratic strategy memos Republican Senate staffers obtained in the early 2000s.
“So if you’re an Hispanic or African-American conservative, it’s about your philosophy. Now, it’s going to be about the historic nature of the pick,” Graham said at Monday’s hearing.
“It’s going to be about your philosophy,” he said to Jackson. “Bottom line here is that it is philosophy when it’s somebody of color on our side. It’s about we’re all racists if we ask hard questions. It’s not going to fly with us.”
“We’re used to it by now. At least I am,” Graham said. “So it’s not going to matter a bit to any of us. We’re going to ask you what we think need to be asked.”
The senator also voiced his frustration that Biden chose Jackson over federal district court Judge Michelle Childs, who is from South Carolina and was seen by Graham as a more consensus pick.
Graham said activists on the left — including those linked to the dark-money consulting group Arabella Advisors — pressured Biden to pick Jackson.
“So you say, Judge Jackson, you don’t have any judicial philosophy per se. Well, somebody on the left believes you do. Or they wouldn’t have spent the money they spent to have you in this chair,” Graham said.
Later, he added: “I want to know about your judicial philosophy, because people on the left, the far extreme part of the left, believe that you were the best bet, and I want to know why they reached that conclusion.”
He also contrasted the likely course of Jackson’s confirmation hearings with the circus of defamation that surrounded now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s hearings in 2018.
But, he said, the substance of Jackson’s career will matter.
And Graham reiterated that he was not happy that it was Jackson, and not Childs.
“Now, we’re facing a choice, sponsored by the most radical elements of the Democratic Party when it comes to how to be a judge,” Graham told Jackson. “They have the most radical view of what a judge should do, and you were their choice.”
Graham was one of three Republican senators who voted to confirm Jackson to the D.C. circuit court in June.