Key highlights from Day 3 of her Supreme Court hearings

WASHINGTON — The third day of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson‘s confirmation hearings kicked off with familiar themes from Republican skeptics of her Supreme Court nomination, and familiar answers from the historic nominee.

Round one of questioning wrapped up and senators moved into a shorter round two, with 20 minutes allowed for each member of the Judiciary Committee.

Here are some key takeaways from the third day so far.

Original intent and ‘modern day’

Under questioning about how to reconcile constitutional provisions written for a world that has dramatically changed, Jackson discussed her philosophy for balancing that.

“It’s a process of understanding what the core foundational principles are in the Constitution, as captured by the text, as originally intended, and then applying those principles to modern day,” she said under questioning about how the First Amendment’s protections for a free press apply in a world of smartphones.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said that judicial temperament and integrity are important but that “judicial philosophy” is overrated. He said it’s often a smokescreen for a policy-driven approach to judging that powerful special interests want to see, citing “originalism” as an example.

Durbin’s ‘editorializing’

The day opened with Senate Judiciary chair Dick Durbin, D-Ill., rebutting claims by Republican senators, particularly Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., from the previous day — and irking some of his colleagues in the process.

“For many senators, yesterday was an opportunity to showcase talking points for the November election,” he said. “Yesterday, your nomination turned out to be a testing ground for conspiracy theories and culture war theories. The more bizarre the charges against you and your family, the more I understand the social media scoreboard lit up yesterday. I’m sorry we have to go through this.”

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., chimed in to take issue with his “editorializing” — to which Durbin replied: “It’s called chairman’s time. It is a tradition in this committee.” He said his Republican predecessors have done the same.

Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., the only millennial on the committee, chimed in to tell his older colleagues to cut it out. “I don’t think we set an appropriate time by bickering about time and process at the outset of our proceedings,” he said.

Graham and Cruz’s aggressive questioning

The mood in the room was calmer and more jovial than Tuesday — until Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., took the mic. The exchange quickly grew tense as Graham took on a hectoring tone, grilling her about Democrats’ treatment of a lower court nominee from two decades ago and of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

As he grilled her on illegal immigration, child pornography sentencing and past judicial battles, Graham interrupted Jackson multiple times, frustrating Democrats.

“Senator, she’s had nothing to do with the Kavanaugh hearings,” Durbin responded.

“No, but I’m asking her about how she may feel about what y’all did,” Graham said.

“Senator, your time has expired,” Durbin replied.

Outside the room, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Graham’s behavior was “beyond the pale” and that he was “badgering” the nominee. He called it “a sad day for the U.S. Senate.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, repeatedly grilled Jackson on why she didn’t give a particular defendant a higher sentence, describing the transgressions in graphic terms. When he interrupted her responses, Durbin grew impatient: “I’ll just say to the judge: There’s no point in answering, he’s just going to interrupt you.”

That set Cruz off. “I appreciate the chairman trying to filibuster, and if you don’t like the witness’s answer you’re welcome to provide your own,” he said. The Texas Republican and Illinois Democrat went back and forth until Durbin, declaring Cruz’s time up, proceeded to the next senator.

During his questioning, Leahy, who has participated in 20 Supreme Court confirmation battles over nearly half a century serving in the Senate, predicted the outcome of the Jackson hearings.

“You will become a member of the U.S. Supreme Court,” he told her.

“I watch ‘Law and Order'”

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., did his best to make a U.S. senator on the Judiciary Committee appear relatable to ordinary Americans.

“I’m not an attorney. I watch “Law and Order” from time to time,” he told Jackson during his questioning early in the day.

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