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BY JOHN BRESNAHAN, ANNA PALMER, JAKE SHERMAN, AND HEATHER CAYGLE
WITH MAX COHEN AND CHRISTIAN HALL
Happy Tuesday morning.
The real Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson begin today.
Monday’s opening statements from senators on the Judiciary Committee and Jackson were just the first gambit from both sides. Today is when the actual drama starts — if there’s going to be any in Jackson’s bid to become the first Black woman on the high court.
Senators will get a chance to question Jackson for 30 minutes during the first round that starts today, plus another 20 minutes during the second round. This questioning will last for two days, or roughly 18 to 19 hours in total. Half of that will be by Democrats, who aren’t likely to push Jackson anywhere near as hard as their GOP counterparts.
This means Jackson has to withstand roughly nine to 10 hours of questioning by (potentially) hostile senators over the next two days. And the reward for getting through this ordeal successfully could be a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court.
It was pretty clear from Monday’s sessions where Republicans will go. They want to grill Jackson on her judicial philosophy, whether she will be an “activist judge” who will seek to make law from the bench, one not satisfied in interpreting laws as passed by Congress and approved by the president.
There was a lot of discussion Monday by Republicans on whether Jackson – a former public defender – was “soft on crime.” They’ll also explore her record while serving on the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Jackson’s representation of two Guantanamo Bay detainees was raised as a point of emphasis as well.
Yet most controversially, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said he wants to know whether Jackson has been too lenient in handing out prison sentences for defendants in seven child pornography cases. Hawley read the specific cases out to Jackson during Monday’s hearing. Democrats, the White House and Jackson’s supporters have pushed back very hard on this issue, accusing Hawley of cherry picking quotes and failing to note that the sentences were in line with recommendations from probation officials.
We spoke to several Judiciary Committee Republicans following Monday’s hearing and asked about their focus for today’s proceedings. Some Republicans declined to say what they’d ask Jackson, preferring to save that for the committee room. However, here’s some of what we heard:
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on Judiciary, said, “No one is questioning [Jackson’s] qualifications. We want to know how she looks at a judge’s job – whether she looks at it as a super legislator or whether she’s going to interpret the law.”
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) didn’t want to discuss his list of questions but, like Grassley, planned to focus on Jackson’s “philosophy as a judge” and her overall approach to serving on the bench.
“I’m not gonna ask the judge how she would rule on a particular case. I’m not gonna ask the judge to comment on past Supreme Court cases. I’m just gonna talk to her about the law. I’m gonna try to understand how she thinks, how she analyzes cases, how she views the Constitution, what powers judges have, what limitations they have, how the federal judiciary fits in the Madisonian system of separation-of-powers. I talked in my opening statement today about representative governments versus declarative government. I want to talk to her about that. I would like to talk to her about the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.”
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) was more expansive on the particulars of his questions for Jackson:
“If time allows, I’m going to spend a little bit on intellectual property stuff, which won’t be an attention grabber but is something that’s very important to me. I’m also kind of curious on due process. I do have a couple of questions with respect to sentencing that involve law enforcement assaults and a handful of others, but it’ll be pretty focused.”
As we noted above, we had a somewhat lengthy discussion with Hawley over his decision to dive into sentences meted out by Jackson in child porn cases.
We pressed Hawley several times on whether he actually believes Jackson is too lenient on child pornographers. And while Hawley kept saying he “liked” Jackson, we noted it’s an unusual way to express that sentiment.
“I’m not going to put words into her mouth, and I want to be careful here not to cast aspersions on her personally because I like her, and I think she’s a good person. I want to be clear on that.
But she may [have] a philosophy of the law. To me, that’s what this is about – her record, and her philosophy. So I’m going to ask her tomorrow.”
“This way, [Jackson] knows exactly what I’m going to ask. And we’ll have an informed conversation… This is a smart person. She will come, and she will have her notes and whatever else on these cases. And she’ll say, ‘Here’s why I did what I did, here’s my thinking,’ and that’ll be illuminating.”
Hawley insists that he isn’t doing it to raise his profile for a possible presidential run in 2024 or with conservatives nationally.
“I’m not going to run for president,” Hawley said. “I’m not a candidate in 2024. Hopefully for the Senate, if the people of Missouri will have me.”
We also asked Hawley about the intense criticism he’s facing from Democrats and the White House. Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin – without naming Hawley specifically – said such charges “fly in the face of pledges my colleagues made that they would approach [Jackson’s] nomination with civility and respect.”
“It tells me that they, the White House and Democrats, are really worried about this issue,” Hawley countered. “You’ll notice that they wouldn’t actually talk about it on the committee.”
Democrats, meanwhile, don’t have a coordinated approach when it comes to questioning Jackson, according to Durbin. He told reporters that Democratic senators on the panel have met twice, but it wasn’t to plan a specific line of questioning among members:
“We sat down and talked as a Democratic Caucus in the committee twice. Once was about the state of discovery and the most recent one was people who gave us some opinions on what the public was looking for. …There are a lot of questions. I’ve got five or 10 and I’m sure each person does as well. You don’t want to plow the same ground. You like to have something so novel even the press notices.”
Durbin says he’s still holding out hope that the committee vote to confirm Jackson will be bipartisan, despite an evenly split panel with most, if not all, Republicans poised to oppose her confirmation.
“I think my challenge is a little bit more significant than some. [It’s] an evenly divided committee, this is no day at the beach. We have a lot of tie votes but we have many that aren’t. So I’m striving to get more and more votes that come out with a majority. I hope this one does but it’s still too early to say.”
PRESENTED BY AMERICAN EDGE PROJECT
“Every day, I work with small businesses in my community, helping them grow and create jobs.
American technology empowers Main Street businesses to innovate and reach their customers through social media and online advertising.” – Clayton, Corinth, MS
Wyden, Crapo still seeking deal on Russia trade and oil ban
While the Jackson confirmation hearing will get most of the public attention today, senators from both parties are still wrestling with the issue of stripping preferred trade status from Russia and Belarus, as well as the hugely important move of barring Russian oil imports to the United States.
President Joe Biden has already issued an executive order preventing Russian oil sales here, but lawmakers want to codify it into law. The House also passed a Russia-Belarus trade bill last week by a huge margin, although it contains Global Magnitsky language not included in a previous bicameral proposal. That law imposes sanctions on human rights violators.
Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the chair and ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, have been negotiating on both the Russia-Belarus trade status issue, as well as Russian oil imports.
We first reported these issues late last week. As of Monday night, Wyden was still waiting to talk to Crapo to see if they can work something out. But he wouldn’t directly say whether the Magnitsky language is a deal breaker for him.
“The House bill, I’m supportive of it,” Wyden said. “I described it as the most significant economic consequences in a generation…In the Senate, the majority leader [Chuck Schumer], Crapo and I will be talking and we’ll have more to say after we get a chance to do it.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, publicly questioned whether the House oil sanctions bill was less tough on Russia than Biden’s executive order. And he also wanted to make sure the White House was on board with the congressional effort.
“We’ve given them some language and worked back and forth with Sen. Crapo and and his team and Sen. Murkowski and all of them,” Manchin told us. “So we have a good piece of legislation with good wording that does exactly what needs to be done. But really it’s what the president’s doing.”
More from Manchin:
“We were concerned about the way it was coming from the House, the language in the House was a little bit concerning because it would go backwards…We just changed it basically and if you see the language we put in there, it’s basically 45 days, but it didn’t start on time with passage, it started retroactively.”
“I think we all have to be on the same page here, we all want the same outcome. And everybody can take credit for it because we’re all on the same page. But the bottom line is don’t mess up what the president is already doing right now or make it more difficult for them.”
ODDS AND ENDS
Two nuggets of news for your radar
→ Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will appear on Capitol Hill today with Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) to talk about the Bipartisan Innovation Act – the chips bill. The Senate invoked cloture on the House-passed legislation Monday, which moves the House and Senate closer to a formal bicameral negotiation.
→ Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) sent a letter to Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler about the new draft rule requiring businesses to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions. Hagerty asked Gensler to comply with the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to study the rule before it takes effect. Here’s the letter.
THE MONEY GAME
Who is funding the party committees
By now you may know that the DCCC raised $19.3 million last month and the NRCC raised $10 million. But we like to take a deeper look at who is cutting the big checks to the committees this election year.
→ Stephen Mandel, the founder of the hedge fund Lone Tree Capital, and his wife Susan both gave $109,500 to the DCCC. Stephen Schuler, an Illinoisan who sold a marijuana business for nearly $700 million, and his wife Mary gave $438,000 to the DCCC.
→ Sean Eldridge, the husband of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, gave $36,500. Eldridge mounted an unsuccessful bid for the House in 2014.
→ Legendary hip hop producer Lyor Cohen gave $10,000.
→ Douglas Leone, a partner at Sequoia Capital, gave $255,500.
→ Hedge fund titan Daniel Loeb gave $185,500.
→ Keith Rabois, a partner in Founders Fund, gave $255,400.
→ John Catsimatidis, the New York grocery store magnate, gave $40,000.
PRESENTED BY AMERICAN EDGE PROJECT
Congress needs to protect, not weaken American technology
“Some politicians in Washington are pushing new laws that will weaken American technology, threaten jobs in our community, and make our economy more dependent on China.
“This misguided agenda will leave small businesses behind.” See Clayton’s story.
→ We have an interesting tidbit on former President Donald Trump’s involvement in the messy Republican Senate primary in Pennsylvania. While delivering a private speech as part of his “American Freedom” tour in Florida this weekend, Trump asked the crowd what they thought about GOP candidate Mehmet Oz.
“Does anybody like Dr. Oz?” Trump asked, followed by cheers from the crowd. “He seems to be doing well. He’s got a good race, a tough race going.”
To be sure, this does not signal anything concrete from Trump, who has tried to play GOP kingmaker. But it’s notable that Trump decided to namecheck Oz rather than David McCormick — the other frontrunner in the Republican primary who’s aggressively courting a Trump endorsement.
Trump initially backed Sean Parnell in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), before Parnell withdrew a huge public controversy over abuse allegations in his divorce case.
Remember: NBC News reported last week that former first lady Melania Trump is favoring Oz in the campaign.
10:15 a.m.: President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing.
1:00 p.m.: Jen Psaki and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will brief.
2:15 p.m.: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will have a closed briefing on the Iran nuclear negotiations.
2:30 p.m.: Reps. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) will host a webcast meeting entitled “Cures and Coverage: A Chilling Precedent for Patients.”
6:00 p.m.: Speaker Nancy Pelosi participates in a moderated conversation on voting rights at LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas.
PRESENTED BY AMERICAN EDGE PROJECT
“Congress needs to protect, not weaken American technology.” See why.
→ ”How Ukraine’s outgunned air force is fighting back against Russian jets,” by Maria Varenikova and Andrew E. Kramer
→ “Russia Intensifies Air and Sea Attacks; West Fears Next Step,” by Marc Santora
→ “Biden heads to Europe in an effort to bolster the Western alliance,” by Tyler Pager, Ashley Parker and Isaac Stanley-Becker
→ “Zelensky says some cities bombed beyond recognition,” by Amy Cheng and Rachel Pannett
→ “Wallets, IDs but no survivors found in China Eastern crash,” by Dake Kang and Ng Han Guan
→ “Greitens allegations spark GOP fears of losing Missouri Senate seat,” by Natalie Allison and Burgess Everett
Anchorage Daily News
→ “After Young’s death, Alaska’s political world braces for a sea change and an elections marathon,” by Nathaniel Herz and James Brooks
PRESENTED BY AMERICAN EDGE PROJECT
This misguided agenda will leave small businesses behind
Small businesses in this country rely on America’s tech companies to access customers and provide services. Congress should avoid legislation that empowers foreign competitors at the expense of domestic industry, Main Street businesses across the country are depending on them. See why.
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images
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