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Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmation hearings: What happened Tuesday

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies on her nomination to become an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court during the Senate Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearing on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.
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Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies on her nomination to become an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court during the Senate Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearing on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

Day 2 of the confirmation hearing of Ketanji Brown Jackson, the federal judge President Biden nominated to fill the seat of retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, will likely last past 9 p.m. EDT. Follow live updates here.

The nature of Tuesday's hearing is vastly different than what Jackson faced on Monday, when 22 senators gave their opening statements before she introduced herself to the committee.

Here are some highlights from Tuesday's hearing.

Jackson answered a question on Republicans' minds about whether the nine-member high court should be expanded, as liberal groups have called for. Jackson said her stance on court expansion matches that of Amy Coney Barrett, a nominee of former President Trump. "In my view, judges should not be speaking to political issues and certainly not a nominee for a position on the Supreme Court," Jackson said.

Sen. Dick Durbin fact checked Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas after Cornyn asked Jackson why she called former President George W. Bush and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "war criminals." Jackson said she didn't remember using the term. Over a lunch break, Durbin researched the matter and later told the hearing Jackson never made those remarks.

Sen. Ted Cruz holds up a book on antiracism as he questions U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
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Sen. Ted Cruz holds up a book on antiracism as he questions U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Sen. Ted Cruz attempted to link Jackson's career with critical race theory, despite her repeated statements that the academic approach (used predominantly in law schools) "doesn't come up in my work as a judge." Cruz alleged Georgetown Day School, where Jackson serves on the board of trustees, is "overflowing" with the theory and brought children's books as props. Jackson told the Texas Republican that the board doesn't control curricula.

Jackson defended herself against claims she is soft on sentencing child pornography defendants. She said she takes these crimes extremely seriously as a judge and as a mother and called on Congress to change laws on sex abuse materials to stay current in the digital era. Republican Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, among others, have painted Jackson as a judge who metes out lenient sentences for those convicted of possessing and distributing child pornography. "Congress tells judges what we're supposed to do when we sentence and what I'd say is that Congress has to determine how it wishes for judges to handle these cases," Jackson said.

She also defended her record as a public defender for Guantanamo Bay detainees, noting that public defenders "don't get to pick their clients." Jackson added "we're entitled to be treated fairly. That's what makes our system the best in the world. That's what makes us exemplary."

Overall, Jackson is following the playbook of past nominees in being circumspect in her statements about her judicial philosophy. If the name of the game is getting confirmed, transparency is not a nominee's friend. And the nature of the partisan state of affairs means that the senators asking questions aren't always focused on the nominee either. Senators on both sides of the aisle used part of their questioning time to bemoan the role of "dark money" in the nominating process.

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