Hawley, McConnell represent different extremes of Republican resistance to SCOTUS nominee

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky might be members of the same party, but they are far apart in their approach to levying criticism against President Joe Biden’s pick for the Supreme Court.

Hawley, among the farther Right members of the Senate and a favorite of former President Donald Trump and his supporters, used social media to make accusations guaranteed to carry the headlines, while McConnell, the long-tenured senator and minority leader, offered criticism that went virtually unnoticed despite having been delivered on the floor of the Senate, but could prove the dominant theme when Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson faces her confirmation hearing next week.

In a move that was roundly panned by the media, academia, and the White House, Hawley posted a lengthy series of tweets, which he also collected on his Senate website, in which he alleged Jackson’s record was littered with examples of her showing undue empathy to such perpetrators.

“Judge Jackson has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker,” one tweet reads. “She’s been advocating for it since law school. This goes beyond ‘soft on crime.’ I’m concerned that this a record that endangers our children.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki rallied to Jackson’s defense, accusing Hawley of purposefully misconstruing Jackson’s writings and rulings.

“[In] the vast majority of cases involving child sex crimes, the sentences Judge Jackson imposed were consistent with or above what the government or U.S. probation recommended,” Psaki said during her Thursday press briefing. She later added, “She comes from a law enforcement family, has devoted her career to standing up for the rule of law, which is why she is endorsed by so many leading law enforcement organizations in the country.  And attempts to smear or discredit her history and her work are not borne out in facts.”

Hawley has shown no letup and went on Fox’s “Hannity” Thursday night to defend his position.

The controversy seems to boil down to a difference of opinion on how much punishment is due a person convicted on child pornography charges, rather than objective wrongdoing by Jackson.

Sentencing Law and Policy, a blog run by Ohio State law professor and sentencing expert Douglas Berman, contains a more nuanced breakdown of Jackson’s sentencing record as it relates to child pornography convictions. Berman found that Jackson’s standards were similar to those of other federal judges, with many of her sentence reductions coming at the request of the prosecution.

Hawley’s message was not universally embraced by Republicans. McConnell and Sen. Chuck Grassley, two of the more senior members of the Senate, have both stated they wanted to avoid mudslinging in the hearings.

“[I] can assure you of one thing: we’re not going to have a comedy and a tragedy like the Democrats demonstrated to [Justice Brett] Kavanaugh,” Grassley told “Fox and Friends” last month. “We’re going to be very forthright in our questioning, but we’re going to be polite, and we’re not going to get down in the gutter like they did with Kavanaugh.”

McConnell attacked the notion that Jackson’s empathetic approach to judicial matters was a net positive and suggested her empathy only extended to the accused.

“If you’re the litigant for whom a judge has special preexisting empathy, well, it’s your lucky day,” McConnell said. “But the other party is being denied their fair day in court.” He later added, “Liberals are saying that Judge Jackson’s service as a criminal defense lawyer and then on the U.S. Sentencing Commission give her special empathy for convicted criminals … I guess that means that government prosecutors and innocent crime victims start each trial at a disadvantage.”

Like McConnell, Hawley has attracted support in the Senate.

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah has allied himself with Hawley and tweeted Thursday, “The White House’s whataboutist response to Judge Jackson’s very real record in child pornography cases is dismissive, dangerous, and offensive. We need real answers.”

Other senators, like Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, have guarded their plans more closely. Friday, Blackburn told The Federalist only that she would “give voice to the questions and concerns that conservative women have as they look at the federal bench and the individual that is going to take the seat.”

Yet, even as McConnell and Hawley offered a preview of the types of questions Jackson will face during her confirmation – either supercharged or more traditional attacks on her willingness to be tough on crime – their rhetorical efforts are more likely to be linked most concretely by the fact that they will be auxiliary banter in a process that will almost certainly end with Jackson’s confirmation.

Unlike the passage of Constitutional Amendments, which requires a 60-vote supermajority to proceed, Democrats need only a simple majority to confirm Jackson. All 49 Democrats in the Senate, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and numerous Republicans are expected to vote in favor of Jackson.