Democrat Tim Kaine pans GOP’s ‘wild’ attack on Biden’s Supreme Court pick Ketanji Brown Jackson

Virginia Democrat points to judge’s support from notoriously right-leaning police union

John Bowden
Capitol Hill
Monday 21 March 2022 12:58 GMT
Justice Stephen Breyer retires from US Supreme Court

A Virginia Democrat derided the GOP’s labelling of President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court nominee as “soft on crime” and characterised the “wild” criticism of her as unserious.

Mr Kaine spoke to The Independent in the Capitol basement last Thursday after one of his Republican counterparts, Sen Josh Hawley of Missouri, tore into Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s sentencing record on cases of individuals convicted for possessing child sexual abuse images.

In a lengthy Twitter thread posted on 16 March, Mr Hawley listed a number of examples (without providing much, if any, context) of Ms Jackson dispensing lower sentences to individuals convicted of such crimes and cited her writings and past quotations on the subject as troubling.

Mr Kaine said he wasn’t familiar with Mr Hawley’s remarks on the subject, but said he had heard the senator had made some “wild claims” about the Supreme Court nominee.

He did, however, respond to reporting in The New York Times which indicated that the Republican National Committee had come out firmly against Ms Jackson and had passed around a background paper to GOP senators attacking the judge’s time as a public defender working on cases for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, the notorious US prison in Cuba.

“My belief is that there is no way that the daughter of a police officer who, [as] an incredibly rare thing has the support of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), is soft on crime,” Mr Kaine said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans have made the claim that Ms Jackson’s nomination is evidence of the left wing of Mr Biden’s party having a hold over the president; Mr Kaine appeared to pan that assertion directly in his interview, citing the support of Ms Jackon by the FOP.

“FOP virtually never endorses folks on my side of the aisle,” the senator went on. “So when the FOP comes out for somebody like Judge Brown Jackson, that tells me, ‘Wow, I gotta know how to do that’. So they must feel that she’s very credible on law and order.”

Mr Kaine’s claim about the FOP is generally accurate; the organisation is the nation’s largest police union and has a history of supporting Republican candidates including the two candidacies of Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020. At the presidential level, the union hasn’t supported a Democrat since the re-election of former President Bill Clinton in 1996.

The organisation’s support has done little so far to quell the grumbling from Republicans, some of whom were hoping that Mr Biden would instead nominate Michelle Childs, a US District Court judge based in South Carolina who had been touted as a pick with potential bipartisan support by one of the state’s US senators, Lindsey Graham. Mr Graham lamented Mr Biden’s decision to go with Ms Jackson instead in the minutes after it was reported by media outlets, writing on Twitter that “the radical Left has won President Biden over yet again”. He met briefly with Ms Jackson in recent days, but has yet to indicate how he’ll vote.

Other senators around the Capitol on Thursday including potential swing vote Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona told The Independent that they weren’t aware of Mr Hawley’s criticism. Mr Graham rushed by reporters and flatly declined to comment, exclaiming: “I’m not gonna say anything about it, just show up.”

Ms Jackson herself was back on Capitol Hill on Thursday as well, and arrived at the Senate alongside former Sen Doug Jones of Alabama. Mr Jones won a special election for his seat in 2017, but lost handily when running for a full term in 2020 and is now serving as an adviser to Mr Biden on his Supreme Court nomination fight.

Hearings for Ms Jackson’s nomination are set to begin before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week.

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