Grassley says he wants a SCOTUS Justice who will commit to original understanding of constitution

Confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson began on Monday. If confirmed, Jackson will be the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.


Katie Goodale

U.S Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, speaks with the Daily Iowan staff after a visit to Mercy Hospital on July 2, 2019.

Meg Doster, Politics Reporter

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, set out the GOPs approach for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings, saying he’ll be scrutinizing Jackson’s legal philosophy to see if she is committed to interpreting laws as written.

“I’ll be looking to see whether Judge Jackson is committed to the Constitution as originally understood,” Grassley said in his opening remarks on Monday.  “Some of us believe that judges are supposed to interpret the laws of what’s understood when written, not make new laws or simply fill in the vacuum.”

RELATED: Chuck Grassley, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, congratulates Ketanji Brown Jackson on SCOTUS nomination

Grassley said he is concerned about Jackson’s nomination because he thinks the judiciary committee does not have enough information about Jackson’s records from her time on U.S. Sentencing Committee and in other roles. 

Jackson said that she decides cases from a neutral standing and knows that her role as a judge is a limited one.

“If I am confirmed I commit to you that I will work productively to support and defend the Constitution and this grand experiment of American democracy that has endured over these past 246 years,” Jackson said

Over the past week Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, and other Republicans, have leveraged claims that Jackson suggested there is a kind of “less serious” child pornography offender. 

Hawley’s tweet was untrue. Jackson asked questions of an expert witness who said some child pornography users may have non-sexual motivations at a 2012 hearing on sentencing guidelines, according to an AP fact check. 

“We must carefully examine federal judges’ records, especially Supreme Court nominees,” Grassley said. “I was disappointed that we weren’t able to get bipartisan agreement to ask for Judge Jackson’s documents from her time as vice chair of the Sentencing Commission.”

Grassley said that knowing a judge’s professional records are important to understanding a judge’s views and ethics, but haven’t received what he considers enough information.

“The Obama White House sent us roughly 68,000 pages of material, but more than 38,000 of the 60,000 pages are repeated copies of email threads,” Grassley said. “Those emails contain just one tweet about Judge Jackson, more than 13,000 of the 60,000 pages are just lists of previous nominations. So that leaves only 16,000 of 68,000 that we received from the White House that are obviously useless.”

Jackson would be replacing Justice Stephen Breyer, who in January announced his plans to retire. If confirmed, Jackson will be the first Black woman to sit on the nation’s highest court. 

Jackson’s made comments on the first day after the other members of the Judiciary committee. She said she was grateful to be nominated to the Supreme Court, and thanked the three jurists she clerked for, including Breyer, the judge she hopes to take the seat of.

“Justice Breyer, in particular, not only gave me the greatest job that any young lawyer could ever hope to have,” Jackson said. “He also exemplifies what it means to be a Supreme Court Justice, of the highest level of skill and integrity, civility and grace. It is extremely humbling to be considered for Justice Breyer’s seat.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., reminded the chamber of the significance of Jackson’s nomination. 

“In its more than 230 years, the Supreme Court has had 115 justices, 108 have been white men,” Durbin said. “It’s not easy being the first. Often you have to be the best, in some ways, the bravest.”