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Confirmation hearings for Biden's Supreme Court nominee continue for a 3rd day

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

You know, I got a chance to watch some of the Supreme Court hearings yesterday. In theory, it was a chance for senators to ask questions of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. In practice, the judge did not always say that much. She was mainly present while senators delivered speeches, vented anger and talked to the cameras for social media videos and fundraising. Today comes a little more. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis is covering the hearings. Sue, good morning.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.

INSKEEP: At least three Republican senators focused on Jackson's rulings in a handful of child porn cases. Why?

DAVIS: Well, there has been a pretty clear strategy, at least from a handful of Republican senators, to try to cast her as someone who is soft on crime. Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley, in particular, focused the entirety of his time on this issue. Now, I should note the White House did criticize Hawley specifically. They said he was flirting with conspiracy theories promoted by the QAnon movement that the Democratic Party is somehow run by people who support or protect child predators. Here's a little bit of Hawley's exchange with the judge.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KETANJI BROWN JACKSON: You said before the probation office is making recommendations and they do so on a case-by-case basis. That is what Congress requires. Once...

JOSH HAWLEY: But you had discretion, Judge. You admit that, right? I just want to be clear on that.

JACKSON: Senator, sentencing is a discretionary act of a judge, but it's not a numbers game.

DAVIS: Now, Steve, it is accurate that in a handful of cases involving child pornography, Jackson did not hand down the maximum sentence. But this has been pretty closely examined by fact-checkers and even some conservative legal writers who have largely debunked the idea that it was out of the norm or that Jackson's rulings - and saying that Jackson's rulings were consistent, not just with precedent, but with other judges in similar cases. Also important context here - Jackson has the support of the Fraternal Order of Police. It's a group that would not necessarily support a nominee believed to be lax, especially on a crime like that.

INSKEEP: Let me ask about another issue. What did she say about abortion rights?

DAVIS: You know, like most nominees, she did not directly answer the question. But it was interesting how she answered it. She aligned herself with how recently confirmed conservative judges have answered the same question.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JACKSON: I do agree with both Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Barrett on this issue. Roe and Casey are the settled law of the Supreme Court.

DAVIS: Steve, this is a great example how both conservative and liberal nominees can answer the same question the same way, but are very widely expected to vote differently on this issue. If she's confirmed, she won't join the court until after a case challenging Roe is decided later this year. And her appointment won't change the ideological makeup of the court. It will still be a 6-3 conservative majority.

INSKEEP: It's interesting that she managed to get on the record again what those justices have said about Roe and Casey in the past. Let me ask now about Senator Ted Cruz, Republican from Texas. He focused on the judge's role on the board of Georgetown Day School, this private school in Washington, D.C. And he focused on the school's curriculum, including a book on how to talk to kids about racism by Ibram X. Kendi.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TED CRUZ: Do you agree with this book that is being taught with kids that babies are racist?

INSKEEP: That was the question as phrased by Cruz. How did she respond?

DAVIS: Well, she stressed that she has no control over that or any other school's curriculum. She also testified that this legal academic idea of critical race theory is not something that affects her role as a judge.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JACKSON: It doesn't come up in my work as a judge. It's never something that I've studied or relied on, and it wouldn't be something that I would rely on if I was on the Supreme Court.

DAVIS: Republicans like Cruz have focused on this concept of critical race theory to basically question any sort of anti-racism curriculum in schools, because it's a position that has been, frankly, very motivating to Republican voters.

INSKEEP: Sue, pleasure talking with you, as always. Thanks so much.

DAVIS: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Susan Davis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.