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Lindsey Graham says Republicans wouldn't have given Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson a hearing if they controlled the Senate

Business Insider logo Business Insider 4/4/2022 bmetzger@insider.com (Bryan Metzger,Oma Seddiq)
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Monday. Win McNamee/Getty Images © Win McNamee/Getty Images Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Monday. Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • Lindsey Graham said Republicans wouldn't give Jackson a hearing if they had the Senate majority.
  • "If we were in charge, she would not have been before this committee," he said Monday.
  • His comments underscore the depth of Republican hostility to Biden's Supreme Court nominee.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Monday that Republicans would not have held hearings on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's nomination to the Supreme Court if they held a majority in the Senate.

"If we get back the Senate, and we're in charge of this body, and there's judicial openings, we will talk to our colleagues on the other side," Graham said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for Jackson's nomination. "But if we were in charge, she would not have been before this committee."

He added: "You would've had somebody more moderate than this."

Graham, whose membership on the committee gives him influence over Supreme Court and other judicial nominees, came out early in support of Judge J. Michelle Childs, a South Carolina federal-district jurist, after President Joe Biden announced he would honor his campaign pledge to nominate a Black woman to replace Justice Stephen Breyer, a retiring liberal judge. Graham said he supported Biden's efforts to diversify the high court and publicly praised Childs as his favored rumored contender.

"Put me in the camp of making sure the court and other institutions look like America," Graham said at the time.


Video: Graham questions Judge Jackson: 'How important is your faith to you?' (NBC News)

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But when Biden chose Jackson instead of Childs, the South Carolina Republican and close confidant of former President Donald Trump said: "The radical Left has won President Biden over yet again."

After aggressively questioning Jackson during her confirmation hearings, Graham announced last week that he would oppose her nomination to the high court.

"I will oppose her and I will vote no," Graham said last week. "My decision is based upon her record of judicial activism, flawed sentencing methodology regarding child-pornography cases, and a belief Judge Jackson will not be deterred by the plain meaning of the law when it comes to liberal causes."

Graham voted to confirm Jackson to her current seat on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit just last year. Graham and Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were the only three Republicans to support her confirmation. Collins announced last week that she would vote for Jackson's confirmation to the Supreme Court. Murkowski has not yet said how she will vote.

His comments came years after Senate Republicans notably blocked former President Barack Obama's 2016 nominee, Merrick Garland, for the Supreme Court. Under then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republicans refused to consider Garland's nomination to replace Justice Antonin Scalia. The seat was later filled by Trump's nominee Neil Gorsuch in 2017.

Graham, as well as several other Republicans on the panel, grilled Jackson over her sentencing record and her judicial philosophy during her confirmation hearings last month.

Those GOP members accused Jackson of being "soft on crime," seizing on a handful of child-pornography cases in which they claimed Jackson imposed shorter sentences than those recommended by the federal guidelines. Legal experts have widely rejected the accusations, saying they lacked data showing that Jackson's conduct represented the mainstream and that the sentencing guidelines were outdated and overly severe.

Jackson repeatedly defended her record, telling the senators that "nothing could be further from the truth" in response to the allegations that she had been lenient toward child-abuse offenders.

Republicans like Graham also balked at Jackson's judicial philosophy, which she described as a "methodology" that involved taking a neutral position, reviewing both sides of the case, and applying the law to the facts of the case. 

Graham also spent time during the hearings rehashing the heated 2018 confirmation battle for Trump's nominee Brett Kavanaugh, which grew increasingly partisan after Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault.

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