After meeting with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Sen. Bennet affirms support for her confirmation

Caitlyn Kim/CPR News
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet meets with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on Thursday, March 24.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet said he will vote for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, calling her “smart” and “down-to-earth” after their meeting Thursday. 

“Yes, I'm proud to want to support her,” he said.

Colorado’s senior senator met with Jackson on Capitol Hill a day after she wrapped up two days of questions — sometimes contentious — during her confirmation hearing.

Bennet said Jackson’s personality and background would be a welcome addition to the highest court.

Bennet’s one-on-one meeting lasted about 30 minutes. Sitting in his office afterwards, the Democratic senator said it was a good conversation. He wanted to hear more about her background, growing up in Miami, and what she thinks a person needs to bring to this position.

“I think what makes a good judge is someone who’s really knowledgeable about the law, has a sense of what the wider world looks like around them, and can set aside their biases to render justice and I think she has a similar view,” Bennet said.

The two also discussed one of the main lines of questioning Jackson faced from some Republican senators during her confirmation hearing  —  that she was not tough enough on crime, in particular her sentencing in a few child pornography cases.

Bennet said he thought it was important to hear directly from Jackson. “It wasn’t different from what we heard yesterday. She explained how the sentencing guidelines work and the way in which they interact with other statues.” In the end, he said he was satisfied with her answer.

During the committee’s questioning on Wednesday, Jackson seemed weary of the repeated focus on this topic by some Republican senators. “What I regret is that in a hearing about my qualification to be a justice on the Supreme Court, we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on this small subset of my sentences,” Jackson said to Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley. 

A number of news organizations fact checked Republicans’ claims, finding them misleading

Bennet said the Senate has turned its responsibility to advise and consent on Supreme Court nominees “into just one more partisan food fight around this place.”

Unlike several years ago, where nominees regularly received strong bipartisan support, “now we’ve created a system where it is just an expression of full-on partisan politics. And I’m worried over time that could degrade the Supreme Court's standing in the American people’s eyes.”

Bennet is aware he’s contributed to this trend, noting he went to the Senate floor to apologize for his participation in changing senate rules when it came to confirming federal, but not Supreme Court, judges.

Bennet did not meet with or vote for two of President Trump’s nominees, Brett Kavanah or Amy Coney Barrett, when they were up for confirmation. And while Bennet did follow tradition and introduce fellow Coloradan Neil Gorsuch at his confirmation hearing, in the end, he did not support that nomination either. He said at the time, “Judge Gorsuch is a very conservative judge and not one that I would have chosen…I had concerns about his approach to the law.”

And while Bennet hopes Jackson gets some Republican votes, he won’t be surprised if she doesn’t. “I don’t think it says anything about her, I think it says a lot about how screwed up the process is here on both sides.”

If approved by the Senate, Jackson would be the first Black woman and first former federal public defender on the Supreme Court. Democratic leaders are hoping to hold a vote on the nomination early next month, before the Easter recess.

“Her presence on the court is long, long, long overdue,” he said. “And having the first Black woman Justice on that court is an important step for the country and the court."

Former Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who has been guiding Jackson through her meetings on the Hill, noted before her confirmation hearing that Jackosn had met with more than 40 senators. 

Colorado Sen. John Hickenlooper tweeted out that he looks forward to meeting with Jackson next week.