The Senate hearings for President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court nominee concluded Thursday and offered little reason why Ketanji Brown Jackson shouldn’t be confirmed.
Judge Jackson, serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, faced four days of questioning from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Despite occasional pointed exchanges with GOP senators, the hearings lacked the drama of recent confirmation proceedings, which have devolved into theater. This has led critics to question the value of the process.
But subjecting a nominee to difficult and even hostile questions serves an important purpose.
“First and foremost, the process deters palpably unqualified nominations,” said Adam J. White, a senior fellow with the American Enterprise Institute. “Presidents know they cannot nominate a judge who cannot convey a basic understanding of the law in response to senators’ questions. … Second, confirmation hearings are an opportunity to focus Americans’ minds on the importance of the Constitution, and to debate both the meaning of its words and the role of judges in applying that meaning.”
Judge Jackson carried herself with aplomb and performed admirably under fire. She even acknowledged the importance of “originalism” when it comes to interpreting the nation’s founding document.
“I believe that the Constitution is fixed in its meaning,” she said during the hearings. “I believe that it’s appropriate to look at the original intent, original public meaning, of the words when one is trying to assess because, again, that’s a limitation on my authority to import my own policy.”
Nobody expects Judge Jackson to mimic Antonin Scalia on the high court, of course. She wouldn’t have been nominated by the Biden administration if her judicial philosophy didn’t skew to the left. But perhaps that admission telegraphs her willingness to search for compromise with the more conservative justices on issues of importance.
Judge Jackson would replace the retiring Stephen Breyer on the court, so her presence wouldn’t disrupt the panel’s current ideological balance. She is, by virtually all accounts, well-qualified for the position. Republicans certainly have ideological differences with the nominee, but nothing during the hearings indicated she was unfit or would be unwilling to adhere to the constitutional guardrails.
Mr. Biden occupies the Oval Office. Democrats — thanks to the vice president’s tiebreaking vote in the upper chamber — have enjoyed enough recent electoral success to hold the advantage. When Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer schedules a final vote, likely in the next week, Judge Jackson will be confirmed — as she should be. If Republicans desire future nominees to be more agreeable, they must focus on winning elections.