Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney announced plans Monday to confirm the same judge for the nation’s highest court he opposed less than a year ago for a seat on the D.C. Circuit.
President Joe Biden’s pick to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, Circuit Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, is expected to reach successful confirmation after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-11 to approve her nomination. Jackson’s consideration is headed for a full-chamber vote pending a discharge petition.
“After reviewing Judge Jackson’s record and testimony, I have concluded that she is a well-qualified jurist and a person of honor,” Romney wrote in a statement after the nominee’s confirmation hearings unearthed an extensive record of leniency for individuals convicted of child sex crimes.
“She more than meets the standard of excellence and integrity,” Romney added. Jackson’s record is not only extremely weak on child sex offenders but also shows contempt for the Constitution.
In June last year, however, Romney voted no on Jackson’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Jackson had served as a federal judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia since 2013 following an appointment from President Barack Obama.
At her confirmation hearings last month, Republican senators pressed Jackson on issuing sentences well below federal guidelines in every child pornography case for which records are available, while Democrats looked the other way. In one case, Jackson sentenced Wesley Keith Hawkins, arrested for possession of child pornography that included 17 videos, to three months in prison. She did so despite prosecutors seeking two years while the 2003 PROTECT Act recommended anywhere between 97 to 121 months. According to Real Clear Investigations, Hawkins “continued to seek out sexually arousing images of underage boys,” years after his 2013 conviction.
“I am questioning your discretion, your judgment,” said Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley after pressing Jackson on the case.
Jackson, who also served on the bipartisan U.S. Sentencing Commission, defended her constant sentencing below federal guidelines by claiming the recommendations are outdated.
“I impose a significant sentence and all of the additional restraints that are available in the law,” Jackson told senators. “These people are looking at 20, 30, 40 years of supervision. They can’t use their computers in a normal way for decades.”
In a later exchange with GOP Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Jackson was unable to define the term “woman.”
“I’m not a biologist,” Jackson said, even though Biden openly declared he nominated Jackson on the basis of her sex.
Romney’s declared support for Jackson is merely the latest episode of the Utah Republican deliberately splitting from the GOP in defining moments to self-righteously cast himself above the fray. While it is not uncommon for senators to vote in favor of judges for lower courts but deny support for higher chambers, it is exceedingly rare, if ever, that a senator gives a nominee the green light for the Supreme Court after a vote of rejection for a lower bench.
In 2020, Romney endorsed the Black Lives Matter movement as he continued to carve out a reputation of a betrayer of GOP voters on pivotal issues. Romney was the only GOP senator to support Democrats’ two impeachments of President Donald Trump and has enthusiastically endorsed Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney’s weaponization of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Jan. 6 Committee against political dissidents.
The Utah senator, who has refused to endorse his Utah Republican colleague Sen. Mike Lee in the upcoming midterms, has even gone as far to fundraise for Cheney at a vaccine-mandated event amid her highly competitive primary challenge in Wyoming.