Utah Sen. Mitt Romney says he’ll confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to Supreme Court, while Mike Lee votes ‘no’

Sen. Mike Lee said during Monday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that he was troubled by aspects of Jackson’s judicial record. The committee voted 11-11 along party lines.

(Alex Brandon | AP) Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, questions Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 23, 2022.

Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee voted against confirming Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Monday.

After days of hearings, the committee — which evaluates White House judicial nominees — convened Monday to vote, resulting in an 11-11 deadlock along party lines. However, that does not mean President Joe Biden’s nomination has stalled.

The tie will allow Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, to make a motion to move the nomination to the Senate floor, The Wall Street Journal reported, which will require a simple majority of 51 votes to pass.

Utah’s freshman Sen. Mitt Romney, also a Republican, indicated Monday that he will vote to confirm the historic nomination.

“I have concluded that she is a well-qualified jurist and a person of honor,” Romney said in a statement Monday afternoon. “While I do not expect to agree with every decision she may make on the Court, I believe that she more than meets the standard of excellence and integrity.”

During the initial discussion before Monday’s vote, Lee enumerated several reasons for his opposition.

“When we asked about Judge Jackson’s judicial philosophy, when we asked her [and] when we asked others, we were told frequently that we should look at her record,” Lee said. “So we looked at her record. We’ve got a lot of things in her record that we found concerning.”

He pointed to Jackson’s sentencing in child pornography cases, as well as her involvement in the cases Make the Road New York v. McAleenan and AFGE v. Trump.

These cases haven’t gotten as much attention as some of her other rulings, as some of her sentencing decisions, but they’re very, very significant,” he said. “They’re deeply troubling to me. Because when someone’s willing to act when they lack jurisdiction, and or when they don’t have a valid cause of action upon which to grant that relief, that’s someone who’s cutting at the heart of the limits on judicial authority and creating a dangerous set of circumstances.”

Lee also noted his dissatisfaction with Jackson’s answers during the hearing process.

“I’m also concerned about her inability, or unwillingness, to answer certain basic questions,” he said, specifically referencing questions which asked Jackson to define what a woman is and her views on adding justices the Supreme Court. “... These are troublingly inadequate answers that she provides because she doesn’t answer them at all, to very basic questions. Questions that she could easily answer, should easily answer, and the fact that she doesn’t and won’t and hasn’t is concerning.”

Lee concluded his remarks by saying the committee had not been given access to key documents regarding Jackson’s past sentencing decisions and questioned why the process was rushing so quickly toward confirmation.

Jackson is President Joe Biden’s pick to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, for whom she clerked from 1999-2000, on the nine-justice court. She has a lengthy resume and currently serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Jackson would be the first Black woman to serve on the court.

The judge also has the support of a large group of faculty from Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School, which carries a reputation as one of the most conservative law schools in the nation. In a March letter sent to U.S. Senate leadership, 16 faculty members advocated for her confirmation.

“Judge Jackson’s academic achievement, extensive practice and judicial experience, and broad bipartisan support would make her a distinguished appointment to the court,” the faculty members wrote.

Tribune reporter Bryan Schott contributed to this report.

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