WASHINGTON (AP) — A milestone Supreme Court confirmation that endured a flawed process. The collapse of a bipartisan compromise for more pandemic funds. The departure of a stalwart of the dwindling band of moderate House Republicans.
Party-line fights on Capitol Hill are as old as the republic, and they routinely escalate as elections approach. Yet three events from a notable week illustrate how Congress’ near- and long-term paths point toward intensifying partisanship.
Democrats rejoiced Thursday when the Senate by 53-47 confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black female justice. They crowed about a bipartisan stamp of approval from the trio of Republicans who supported it: Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah.
Yet by historical standards, the three opposition party votes were paltry and underscored the recent trend of Supreme Court confirmations becoming loyalty tests on party ideology. That’s a departure from a decades-long norm when senators might dislike a nominee’s judicial philosophy but defer to a president’s pick, barring a disqualifying revelation.
Murkowski said her support for Jackson was partly “rejection of the corrosive politicization” of how both parties consider Supreme Court nominations, which “is growing worse and more detached from reality by the year.”
Republicans said they would treat Jackson respectfully, and many did. Their questions and criticisms of her were pointed and partisan, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., saying “the Senate views itself as a co-partner in this process” with the president.
Yet some potential 2024 GOP presidential contenders seemed to use Jackson’s confirmation to woo hard-right support. Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., misleadingly accused her of being unusually lenient on child pornography offenders. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., suggested she might have defended Nazis at the Nuremburg trials after World War II.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said some Republicans “went overboard, as far as I’m concerned, to the extreme,” reflecting “the reality of politics on Capitol Hill.” Cotton was “fundamentally unfair, but that is his tradition,” said Durbin.