Threatened GOP Boycott Over Pre-Sentencing Reports Collapses After Some Members Show Reluctance

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 23: U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) questions Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Ca... WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 23: U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) questions Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, March 23, 2022 in Washington, DC. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden’s pick to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court, would become the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court if confirmed. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images) MORE LESS

It would only take one Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee to thwart a boycott of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing — and as of Thursday, there are at least four.

Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) all told reporters that they won’t boycott the vote. 

“It was never even seriously considered, it’s never ever gonna happen, let me be clear,” Tillis said. “Zero, nada, zip.” 

The idea, which would have seriously complicated Jackson’s path through the Senate toward confirmation, has been percolating since Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee used this strategy to block Sarah Bloom Raskin’s confirmation to the Federal Reserve board. She has since withdrawn her nomination.

By preventing the evenly-split committees from amassing a quorum necessary to discharge the nominations to the full Senate, the lawmakers leave the nominees in limbo. There’s been discussion of a potential rule change to circumvent the blockade, but Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) came out in opposition to Raskin’s nomination, dooming her confirmation anyway. 

Wednesday’s over-the-top Republican performances during Jackson’s hearing gave some members a fig leaf to cling to as they mulled boycotting a vote to move Jackson forward. Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Graham spent their questioning time hectoring Jackson about a few selective child pornography cases, with the seeming intent of getting airtime on Fox News to repeat the distortions of her record. They were ultimately successful in doing so.

As their disinformation campaign picked up momentum, they started demanding access to the pre-sentencing reports for these cases. Every Republican but Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) signed on to a letter demanding the reports “associated with each case sentenced by Judge Jackson that involved charges concerning child pornography.” 

An appalled committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) refused the request, saying that he would not have “on his conscience” the children in those cases being revictimized by having the details of the violence done to them exposed. Some Republican members suggested getting the reports in a classified setting, or getting redacted copies. 

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said Thursday that after speaking to prosecutors, he felt sure that they could not redact the reports given the enormous amounts of sensitive information. He added that the committee has never before asked for this kind of confidential information from the judiciary.

“I do not think we want to cross that line in this body,” he warned.

Hawley told reporters Thursday that he’d consider a boycott if he wasn’t able to review the reports, though suggested that he wouldn’t boycott if other Republicans didn’t. 

“If we’re gonna vote, I’m gonna vote,” he said. “I’m gonna vote no.” 

With a boycott averted, Jackson seems on a relatively smooth path to confirmation. Democrats have the votes to confirm her alone, only putting her in real danger if one of them flips. 

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