During the hearings, Jackson has defended her experience and credentials under sharp questions – and criticism – from Republican senators about her legal philosophy and legal record.
On Wednesday, Jackson told the committee that if she is confirmed before the Supreme Court, she plans to withdraw from a high-profile Harvard case on positive action and elaborated on her views on the importance of separation of powers and restrictions on executive power in the United States. government.
She has responded to concerns raised by Republicans about the potential for legal activism by arguing that she approaches her work impartially, stressing that it would be inappropriate to impose any personal opinion or political preference.
The nominee has also defended elements of her tenure in the legal profession that have attracted particular scrutiny – and criticism – from Republicans, including previous defense work on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainees and sentencing in child pornography cases.
Jackson discusses separation of powers and the limits of executive power
Jackson answered Ossoff’s questions by saying that the US government has set up a system of checks and balances to “prevent tyranny.” She called the separation of powers “crucial to freedom” and said that principle is an orientation on her approach to the law.
“It means to me that judges cannot make law, judges should not be political decision-makers, it is part of our constitutional design and it prevents our government from being too powerful and interfering in individual freedom,” she said.
Jackson wanted to withdraw from the Harvard case
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said at the beginning of his interrogation on Wednesday that Harvard is being sued for what he described as “its explicit, and in my opinion, violent policy of discriminating against Asian Americans.”
Jackson replied that she would say no.
“That’s my plan, Senator,” she said.
The cases will be heard in the session beginning next October, with a decision likely in June 2023.
Several sharp questions from Republican senators
Wednesday offered more criticism from Republican senators targeting the nominee over her record, as a number have suggested she has been too lenient with sentencing cases of child pornography.
Jackson has strongly dispelled the concerns, referring to the issue as a “suffering and violent crime”.
Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri pressured Jackson over a case in which he said an 18-year-old perpetrator was sentenced to three months, which he described as a “slap on the wrist.”
“Do you regret it?” Hawley repeatedly asked the nominee.
Jackson said: “Senator, what I regret is that in a hearing on my qualifications to be a judge at the Supreme Court, we have spent a lot of time focusing on this small subset of my judgments.”
Hawley interjected: “You regret that we focus on your cases? I do not understand.”
“No, no, no,” she said, adding that these are “very serious matters.”
As Hawley went on to ask if she regretted the verdict, Jackson said, “Senator, I’ll have to look at the circumstances.”
“You know the circumstances,” Hawley said. “You lived it, as you have emphasized to this committee over and over again. You have lived it, right?”
Jackson replied, “In each case, I have seized it, despite obstacles we can scarcely imagine.” I will decide in all cases based on all the relevant factors. “
“So you do not regret it?” Hawley asked again before saying, “It sounds like the answer is no, but I want to tell you I regret it. I’m sorry you only gave him three months.”
GOP Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina engaged on Wednesday in yet another tense series of questions on the subject.
At one point, he pressured Jackson over whether she believes sentencing has a deterrent effect.
“Yes, Senator, deterrence is one of the purposes of punishment,” Jackson said at one point. But, she added, “Congress has asked the courts to consider different ways to achieve deterrence. One of those, as you said, is imprisonment. Another that I tried to mention were significant periods of oversight.”
Graham later said: “People, what she says, the reason she’s always under the recommendation, I think, is because she’s not using the improvements that are available to her. She’s taking them off the table. I think it’s a big mistake, Judge. ”
Tensions flare up between Republicans and Democrats
Late. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, emerged from the hearing excited over Graham’s interrogation and told reporters it went “beyond the shady”.
“As the dean of the Senate, as the longest-serving member of this body, I’m just desperate to see this kind of complete collapse in what is usually the way the Senate is handled,” he said.
Senate Judiciary President Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, opened Wednesday’s hearing by saying that some senators have used the hearings as “an opportunity to present discussion points for the November election.”
Durbin went on to say, in a critique of Republicans, that the nomination has “proved to be a test site for conspiracy theories and cultural war theories.”
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican member of the committee, jumped in and said it was unfortunate that Durbin had chosen to edit and “contradict the points from this side of the aisle.”
A number of Democrats have so far used the time they have been given for questioning to give Jackson a chance to push back Republican criticism. Democrats have also consistently emphasized the historic nature of Jackson’s nomination, arguing that the depth and breadth of her experience, including as a public defender, would add a valuable and unique perspective to the high court.
What’s next for the nomination
Senate Democrats hope to be able to move quickly to a confirmation vote in the full Senate once the hearings are over. They can confirm Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court without Republican support if each member of their caucus votes in favor, which seems to be happening, and Vice President Kamala Harris breaks the tie. It is not yet clear if Jackson will win any Republican votes.
When the Senate voted to confirm her final year of filling a vacancy at a powerful DC-based appeals court, three Republican senators voted with the Democrats for: GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
But Graham told CNN it is “fair to say” he sees red flags with her nomination in an interview after his first round of questioning the nominee, saying her response to defending Guantanamo Bay detainees “just does not make sense to me. ”
This story and headline has been updated with further developments on Wednesday.
CNN’s Tierney Sneed and Joan Biskupic contributed to this report.