U.S. Senate heads toward final vote this week on Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmation

Rep. Buck of Colorado introduces mandatory-sentence bill for child pornography possession

By: - April 6, 2022 4:00 am

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill March 23, 2022, in Washington, D.C. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden’s pick to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court, would become the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court if confirmed. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The U.S. Senate approved a procedural measure Tuesday to advance Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court, setting up a final vote on confirmation as early as Thursday.

The roll call Tuesday was identical to the tally on another procedural vote Monday. Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah voted with all 50 Senate Democrats to advance the confirmation. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, has pledged to hold the confirmation vote before senators’ two-week recess begins Friday. 


Republicans on the Senate floor continued to raise objections to the nomination, as they did during hours of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings last week.

Schumer’s Republican counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said on the floor that Democrats unfairly attacked justices nominated by Republican presidents during the last four decades.

Senate Democrats “thrust the Senate into a more aggressive posture toward nominations,” McConnell said, and had “no standing” to complain about Jackson’s treatment. 

McConnell said his complaints about Democrats’ past behavior was not the reason he opposed Jackson. He said he would give more details about his opposition Wednesday.

Familiar arguments

As debate on the nomination began this week, Judiciary Committee members brought the arguments they’d used for weeks on the panel to the Senate floor.

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, continued Tuesday to highlight Jackson’s sentencing record in child pornography cases. 

Hawley asked for unanimous consent to pass a bill that would set mandatory sentences for child pornography possession and force judges to stick to sentencing guidelines. Republican Sens. Rick Scott of Florida, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Mike Lee of Utah co-sponsored the bill and U.S. Rep Ken Buck of Colorado introduced a companion House bill.

Hawley spent virtually all his time during Jackson’s confirmation hearings accusing her of being too lenient in sentencing for child pornography convicts, noting she always sentenced them below federal guidelines.

“The nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court has helped bring this issue front and center,” Hawley said Tuesday. “Her record of leniency to child sex offenders has been much the center of her hearings and it has startled the public.”

Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., objected to the Hawley bill, all but accusing the Missouri freshman of trying to score political points instead of seriously working to address the issue. 

Durbin was in favor of revisiting sentencing for child pornography, he said, but Hawley only introduced the bill seven days ago and was now asking the Senate to pass it without a hearing, committee markup or any serious consideration.

“I’m not going to do this in a slipshod, make-a-headline manner,” Durbin said. “We’re going to do it in a manner that is serious … and get it right.”

Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton also renewed a soft-on-crime criticism of Jackson on the Senate floor Tuesday.

“She is a dangerous judge,” Cotton said.

Durbin countered Republicans’ criticisms by noting leading police groups, including the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, had endorsed Jackson.

On child pornography cases, her practices are in line with 70 to 80% of other federal judges, Durbin said.


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Jacob Fischler
Jacob Fischler

Jacob covers federal policy as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Based in Oregon, he focuses on Western issues. His coverage areas include climate, energy development, public lands and infrastructure.