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Graham announces he won’t vote for Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination

By Clare Foran and Ali Zaslav, CNN

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina announced Thursday that he will not vote for President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, despite supporting her nomination to a previous Senate-confirmed position last year.

“I will oppose her and I will vote no,” Graham said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Graham’s opposition does not endanger the nomination as Jackson is already on track to be confirmed, but it is notable because the South Carolina senator was one of only three Republicans who voted in favor of Jackson last year when the Senate confirmed her to the influential US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. The other two Republican senators were Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

As of now, Jackson appears on track to be confirmed by the full Senate as soon as next week. Senate Democrats can confirm Jackson to the high court even without Republican support if every member of their caucus votes in favor, which appears on track to happen, and Vice President Kamala Harris breaks a tie. Jackson’s nomination has already attracted at least one GOP vote, however, with Collins announcing earlier this week that she will vote in favor of confirmation.

Graham explains his opposition

Graham, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, has been signaling he would likely vote against the Supreme Court nomination and directed highly critical questions at Jackson during her confirmation hearings before the panel.

On Tuesday in announcing he would oppose the nomination, the senator said, “My decision is based upon her record of judicial activism, flawed sentencing methodology regarding child pornography cases and a belief Judge Jackson will not be deterred by the plain meaning of the law when it comes to liberal causes.”

Graham added that he finds Jackson “to be a person of exceptionally good character, respected by her peers and someone who has worked hard to achieve her current position. However, her record is overwhelming in its lack of a steady judicial philosophy and a tendency to achieve outcomes in spite of what the law requires or common sense would dictate.”

A number of Republicans have argued during the Senate vetting process of the nomination that Jackson is weak on crime, including making the highly charged accusation that she has been too lenient in sentencing child pornography cases. Many Republicans have also warned they are concerned she would engage in judicial activism, or seek to impose liberal policy preferences from the bench.

Jackson, and Democrats, have forcefully rebutted these charges. During her confirmation hearings, Jackson stressed her concern for public safety and the rule of law as a judge, a mom and an American. And she argued that she approaches her work in an impartial way and personal opinions do not play a role.

“Over the course of my almost decade on the bench, I have developed a methodology that I use in order to ensure that I am ruling impartially and that I am adhering to the limits on my judicial authority,” she said at one point. “I am acutely aware that as a judge, in our system, I have limited power, and I am trying in every case to stay in my lane.”

A CNN review of the material in question shows that Jackson has mostly followed the common judicial sentencing practices in these kinds of cases, and that Republican senators took some of her comments out of context by suggesting they were opinions, rather than follow-up questions to subject-matter experts.

During the hearings, Graham even asked Jackson directly if she would say that she is an activist judge. Jackson replied, “I would not say that.”

On the argument that she has been lenient in child pornography case sentencing, Jackson referred to the issue as a “sickening and egregious crime.”

“As a mother, and a judge who has had to deal with these cases, I was thinking that nothing could be further from the truth,” she said during the hearings when asked by Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, to react to the accusations.

This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.

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