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Republicans Oppose Jackson en Masse, Deadlocking Judiciary Panel


WASHINGTON — Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday unanimously opposed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination as they continued to assail the first Black woman to be put forward for the Supreme Court, forcing Democrats to take extra steps to keep her confirmation this week on track.

G.O.P. opposition deadlocked the evenly split committee 11 to 11, effectively stalling Judge Jackson’s nomination after Republicans spent hours vehemently reiterating their opposition to her elevation, which is all but certain. Democrats moved immediately to discharge the matter from the judiciary panel with a vote of the full Senate. That would pave the way for a confirmation vote as early as Thursday.

The partisan split came after a contentious Judiciary Committee meeting where Republicans rehashed their main attack lines against the judge that dominated a combative set of confirmation hearings, calling her a progressive activist who was soft on crime, while Democrats praised her qualifications and demeanor and said President Biden’s nominee deserved to be confirmed.

“This is a historic moment for the committee and America,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and the chairman of the panel.

While they did not dispute the import of Judge Jackson’s nomination nor her legal qualifications, Republicans continued to rail against her on a variety of fronts, even as some prominent conservatives called their criticisms baseless. They criticized the sentences she handed down in child sex abuse cases, her refusal to state a personal judicial philosophy, her past representation of terrorism detainees as a public defender and her deep support among progressive advocacy groups.

“This choice of Judge Jackson was really embraced by the most radical people in the Democratic movement to the exclusion of everyone else,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a former supporter of Judge Jackson who has become a fierce opponent.

The straight party-line vote meant Democrats would have to employ a special maneuver to get Judge Jackson’s nomination to the floor in a vote of the full Senate expected later Monday. It was a mark of how bitterly divided the chamber has grown over approving Supreme Court nominees, once regarded by members of both parties as a matter of allowing the president his chosen candidate to serve on the court.

Though Republicans complained about past Democratic treatment of Supreme Court nominees named by Republicans, Monday’s meeting was far different from the one Democrats held when they considered the nomination of Clarence Thomas in 1991, when Mr. Biden led the panel. At the time, rather than uniting against him en masse, Democrats agreed to send his nomination to the floor without a recommendation, despite their deep misgivings amid allegations of sexual harassment against the nominee. On Monday, Republicans refused to take a similar step, citing their view that Judge Jackson was too liberal.

“We are supposed to be trained seals over here clapping when you nominated a liberal,” Mr. Graham said. “That’s not going to work.”

He warned that when Republicans next control the Senate, they would routinely deny Democratic judicial nominees they considered too liberal a hearing before the judiciary panel.

The committee’s vote on Judge Jackson’s nomination was postponed for much of the afternoon Monday after Senator Alex Padilla, Democrat of California, had air travel problems returning from his home state, denying his party its full complement of 11 members to take the next step.

The brief postponement of the vote was another reflection of how starkly the lines are drawn in the evenly divided Senate, leaving no margin of error for Democrats eager to win her approval.

Just one Republican, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, has so far said she would vote in support of the nomination on the floor, but if Democrats remain solidly united behind Judge Jackson, they have the votes to install her as the successor to the retiring Justice Stephen G. Breyer.

Republicans continued to question her credibility, citing her resistance to calls to outline her philosophical approach, with Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, saying the response showed a lack of candor.

“Someone of her impressive caliber surely has a judicial philosophy, but maybe she just doesn’t want to talk about it,” Mr. Cornyn said.

In response, Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, accused Republicans of creating a caricature of Judge Jackson that is “so far out of the lines” of reality considering her deep credentials and experience. He said he had heard from people who asked: “How could they create these exaggerations? How could they disrespect a person like her, who has done everything right in her life and in her journey?”

Democrats defended Judge Jackson’s record, noting — in line with several independent analysts — that her sentencing record has fallen well within the mainstream of the federal judiciary, and accusing Republicans and conservative groups of distorting her record. They pointed to her strong support from law enforcement groups and said that many Trump administration nominees had issued similar sentences but were uniformly approved by the same Republicans lining up against Judge Jackson.

“They could have all been dragged through the mud and called names,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, who called the committee vote disappointing but not surprising.

Democrats said the Republican assault was as much about the coming midterm elections as it was about Judge Jackson herself.

“The principal goal here is about stirring up political division and scoring political points,” said Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware.

Though some Republican members of the panel once contemplated boycotting the committee vote to erect a procedural roadblock to Judge Jackson, they quickly abandoned that tactic. But none would support moving the nomination out of committee to expedite her consideration on the floor.

Even as Republicans on the panel uniformly said they would oppose her, many offered her personal and professional praise.

Senator Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who on Monday said that Judge Jackson would be the most extreme liberal ever to sit on the court, called her charming and talented.

“I’ve known her for 30 years and always liked her personally,” he said.

J. Michael Luttig, a former federal appeals court judge revered by conservatives, who supports Judge Jackson, said the Texas senator was badly distorting her record.

“I would not hesitate to retract my endorsement of Judge Jackson for the Supreme Court if there were anything at all to Senator Cruz’s statement, but there is not,” he wrote on Twitter. “In fact, quite the opposite is the case.”

Senator Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina and another vote against her, said: “This is not about the content of her character.”





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