Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on Thursday he would not vote for US Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, expressing concerns about her record despite her support for her confirmation as a justice of the court call last year.
The South Carolina senator’s announcement was expected after he criticized Jackson during his four-day hearings last week. But it gives Democrats one less Republican vote as they seek bipartisan support for President Joe Biden’s pick to replace incumbent Justice Stephen Breyer.
Graham, Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were the only three Republicans to vote to confirm Jackson to the appeals court in 2021. Collins announced Wednesday that she would also vote for the nomination of Jackson to the Supreme Court, giving Democrats at least one GOP vote. Murkowski said she was still undecided.
A final confirmation vote is expected next week. Jackson would be the first black woman to serve on the high court in more than 200 years of history, and the sixth woman.
In a speech to the Senate, Graham said his decision was based in part on what he sees as “flawed sentencing methodology for child pornography cases”, echoing a series of questions posed by some Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Several senators, some considering a run for president, have repeatedly questioned her about her sentencing decisions during her nine years as a federal judge in an effort to paint her as too soft on sex criminals.
Jackson told the committee that “nothing could be further from the truth” and detailed his sentencing decisions. She said some of the cases gave her nightmares and were “some of the worst I’ve seen”.
Democrats pointed to testimony last week from the chairman of the American Bar Association committee that makes recommendations on federal judges. Old 7and Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Ann Claire Williams, leading that ABA panel, said the idea that Jackson is out of the mainstream on sentencing “never mentioned” in a review of more than 250 judges and lawyers. The review found Jackson and his record to be “outstanding, excellent, superior, superb,” Williams said.
Graham also mentioned Jackson’s legal advocacy on behalf of terrorism suspects detained at Guantanamo Bay more than a decade ago and his support of liberal groups. “After a thorough review of Judge Jackson’s case and the information obtained from an evasive witness hearing, I now know why Judge Jackson was the frontrunner of the radical left,” Graham said.
During the hearing, Graham also aired past grievances, asking Jackson about her religion and how often she attends church — impassioned comments that he said were right after a few Democrat questions about the Catholicism of Judge Amy Coney Barrett ahead of her confirmation hearings in 2020.
Graham’s “no” vote will be the first time he has voted against a Supreme Court nominee. He voted for President Barack Obama’s two picks, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, and has often said he thinks a president’s nominees should be confirmed, regardless of party. But he has grown increasingly angry with the process in recent years, especially as Democrats have enthusiastically opposed President Donald Trump’s three nominees. Graham also expressed frustration that Biden did not pick the South Carolina judge he was pushing for the job.
“To my fellow Democrats, I’ll work with you when I can, but that’s a bridge too far,” Graham said.
Collins said Wednesday that she believes Jackson “has the experience, qualifications and integrity to serve as an associate justice on the Supreme Court.” She was the Republican most likely to back Jackson, and she also voted for Supreme Court nominees chosen by the presidents of both parties.
It’s unclear whether other GOP senators will vote for Jackson. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell set the tone last week when he said he ‘can’t and won’t’ support her, citing GOP concerns raised during the hearing about her case. of condemnation and his support of liberal advocacy groups.
Jackson is still touring the Senate ahead of next week’s votes, holding regular meetings with Democratic and Republican senators. On Tuesday, she met with Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who later said he was undecided about supporting her.
Romney said he had a “great meeting” and found Jackson smart, capable and charming. He said he probably wouldn’t decide to vote for her until election day.
All 50 Democrats are expected to back her, although a notable moderate Democrat, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, has yet to say how she will vote.