Susan Collins breaks with GOP, becomes first Senate Republican to support Ketanji Brown Jackson

Collins ignores disingenuous attacks from Republican senate colleague Josh Hawley to back Biden's SCOTUS nominee

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published March 30, 2022 10:31AM (EDT)

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) (Melina Mara-Pool/Getty Images)
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) (Melina Mara-Pool/Getty Images)

Despite what Democrats have described as taken wildly out of context attacks by Republicans against Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden's Supreme Court nominee, over her past handling of sex-related offenses – Maine Sen. Susan Collins became the first Republican to publicly back the judge. 

"I have decided to support the confirmation of Judge Jackson to be a member of the Supreme Court," Collins said after meeting with Jackson on Tuesday. 

"In recent years, senators on both sides of the aisle have gotten away from what I perceive to be the appropriate process for evaluating judicial nominees," she said. "In my view, the role under the Constitution assigned to the Senate is to look at the credentials, experience and qualifications of the nominee. It is not to assess whether a nominee reflects the individual ideology of a senator or would vote exactly as an individual senator would want." 

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., led the Republican charge against Jackson, unleashing an misleading attack on Jackson's alleged "pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook."

"This is a disturbing record for any judge, but especially one nominated to the highest court in the land," he wrote in a long thread over Twitter. "Protecting the most vulnerable shouldn't be up for debate. Sending child predators to jail shouldn't be controversial."

According to a Vox fact-check, however, Hawley's allegations are broadly "false," characterized mostly by cherry-picked quotes and rulings that lack proper context. 

RELATED: With his Supreme Court pick, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Biden takes the culture war fight to Republicans

For example, Hawley accuses Jackson of attempting to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of child porn charges. "As a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, Judge Jackson advocated for drastic change in how the law treats sex offenders by eliminating the existing mandatory minimum sentences for child porn," he wrote. 

But as The Washington Post notes, Jackson advocated for lowering the minimum mandatory sentence for two types of child porn crimes. It's also important to note that the sentencing guidelines for child porn convictions are widely viewed by judges and policymakers to be too harsh, according to Vox. 

"Most stakeholders in the federal criminal justice system consider the nonproduction child pornography sentencing scheme to be seriously outmoded," the USCC explained in a 2012 report

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Democrats have widely condemned Hawley's tweet as a bad-faith attack, loosely reminiscent of fringe conspiracy theories, such as QAnon, that baselssly accuse high-profile liberals of running secret pedophilic sex rings. 

RELATED: What is QAnon? A not-so-brief introduction to the conspiracy theory that's eating America

Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin, D-Ill., called Hawley's tweets "outrageous," telling Politico, "I don't believe in it being taken seriously."

"I'm troubled by it because it's so outrageous," Durbin said. "It really tests the committee as to whether we're going to be respectful in the way we treat this nominee."

White House spokesperson Andrew Bates likewise described Hawley's attack as "toxic and weakly-presented misinformation that relies on taking cherry-picked elements of her record out of context — and it buckles under the lightest scrutiny."

Jackson was first nominated by President Biden back in late February to succeed liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, who plans on stepping down by June.

By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, and The New York Daily News.

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Gop Joe Biden Josh Hawley Ketanji Brown Jackson Republicans Scotus Senate Supreme Court Susan Collins