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Biden's Supreme Court nominee meets with Senate leaders, judiciary panel members

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The confirmation process for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson and her nomination to the Supreme Court is now fully underway. Democrats hope the Senate will confirm her by next month. And this, of course, is a familiar process for many senators. It is the fourth time they've considered a nominee to the high court in the past five years.

NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell is following the confirmation process, and she joins me now. Hey, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there. Good morning.

MARTIN: So Democrats want this done by next month. Is that likely?

SNELL: That is their plan, and they really do seem to be working towards that goal. Judge Jackson filled out a lengthy questionnaire on her background and started meeting with leaders and members of the judiciary committee on Capitol Hill this week. And so hearings are set to start on March 21, which is really not too far from now. Now, those hearings usually last about four days, and then the committee does deliberations and some procedural work. And Democrats say they're really on track for a final vote on the Senate floor before Easter. They say their focus right now is on making the case that Jackson is more than qualified and deserves bipartisan support.

Here's how Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer put it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHUCK SCHUMER: If confirmed, Judge Jackson would have one of the most diverse professional backgrounds of any sitting justice.

SNELL: He kind of talked about how she has all of the qualifications that make her right for the court and right for right now. And Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Dick Durbin says he believes at least one Republican will be voting for her, and he's personally lobbying for more. And he expects he can win some people over.

MARTIN: Can he?

SNELL: (Laughter).

MARTIN: I mean, are there any Republicans signaling that they plan to vote for her confirmation?

SNELL: Well, it's possible for a couple of reasons. One is that Jackson got three Republican votes when she was confirmed to the appeals court last year. And it's possible that even more Republicans could decide to support her now. And that may sound strange because this is a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the country. But the balance of the court isn't in question here, and Jackson is truly a historic nominee. She's also coming up for confirmation at a time when a number of Republicans are retiring, so they have a little bit less, you know, political stake here. And she's got the backing of the Fraternal Order of Police and several conservative judges. So all of that combined has some Democrats speculating that some, maybe not a lot, of Republicans could set aside their objections and confirm her.

MARTIN: So what are the objections? I mean, when Republicans, however many of them are there who critique her, what do they say?

SNELL: Well, they fall into a couple of camps. You know, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell met with Judge Jackson this week, and he says she's clearly a sharp lawyer with an impressive resume. But he did go on, and he made this critique questioning the questions she didn't answer, like her position on expanding the court, which is sometimes called court packing. But you know, Democrats say it's not uncommon for nominees to decline to weigh in on topics that are questions for Congress and not the court. They also point out that Justice Amy Coney Barrett gave a similar response during her confirmation. Another Republican allegation is that Judge Jackson is backed by liberal outside groups.

Here's how McConnell put it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MITCH MCCONNELL: So I intend to explore what groups that are waging political war against the court as an institution decided Judge Jackson was their special favorite.

SNELL: Now, I'm hearing that particular attack a lot. It's something that Republicans are bringing up. They're kind of talking about this idea of shadowy groups supporting Jackson. But Democrats say they're prepared to respond to that. The Congressional Black Caucus in particular has already said it plans to launch a massive messaging campaign to counter those kinds of allegations.

MARTIN: NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell - thank you, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.