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Senate Judiciary leaders spar over Supreme Court confirmation hearing timeline

Grassley grousing prompts Dem callback to Barrett timeline in 2020

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden's nominee for associate justice to the Supreme Court, meets with Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in the Hart Senate Office Building on March 2.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden's nominee for associate justice to the Supreme Court, meets with Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in the Hart Senate Office Building on March 2. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee signaled Monday that his party will complain about the “unnecessary artificial timeline” that Democrats scheduled for the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, which Democrats answered by pointing to the GOP’s more speedy process for now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett in 2020.

The comments from Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa are the first indications of how Republicans will press their resistance to President Joe Biden’s pick for the high court. Grassley’s comments Monday were limited to scheduling, but did hint at topics Republicans could explore at a confirmation hearing set for the week of March 21.

Grassley said that Chairman Richard J. Durbin announced a “truncated vetting timeline” with an announcement of the hearing, “before even seeking records necessary to begin a complete review.”

Democrats have pushed to have an expeditious confirmation process, as Justice Stephen G. Breyer announced he would retire at the end of the term at the end of June, “assuming that my successor has been nominated and confirmed.”

“We should not sacrifice the integrity of our constitutional advice and consent responsibility to meet an arbitrary timeline,” Grassley said. “The Court’s next term doesn’t begin until October, so there’s absolutely no need to rush.”

Republicans have been stressing that the process will be “respectful,” but Grassley and others have stressed the Senate’s advice and consent role. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate “must conduct a rigorous, exhaustive review” of Jackson’s nomination.

A spokesperson for Durbin said that the timeline is fair and timely, and pointed to the last Supreme Court confirmation of Barrett to illustrate why there can’t be “one set of rules for Republicans and another set of rules for Democrats.”

“Republicans waited just 16 days from when President Trump announced then-Judge Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court before proceeding with a hearing,” spokesperson Emily Hampsten said. “With a March 21 start to the hearing, there will be 24 days from the announcement of Judge Jackson’s nomination to her hearing.”

Barrett had three years of materials to disclose between her Senate confirmation to a federal appeals court and her hearing to become a Supreme Court justice, Hampsten also said. Jackson was confirmed to her current spot on a federal appeals court just a year ago, for which the Judiciary Committee had access to her records.

Grassley said Republicans want to scrutinize government records of Jackson’s prior service on the U.S. Sentencing Commission and as a federal public defender, including her time representing a Guantanamo Bay detainee. Jackson was asked about that representation at a confirmation hearing last year to be on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

“Announcing a hearing date before even seeking these records in order to meet an ahistoric timeline risks casting doubt on the thoroughness of the vetting process,” Grassley said.

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