GOP shoots down Supreme Court boycott

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson answers questions during the third day of her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson answers questions during the third day of her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are shooting down the idea of boycotting the panel's vote on Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.

"There's not going to be any boycott. There's zero, not one iota chance that we would boycott," said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), a member of the committee.

The idea of a committee boycott, which has floated around Capitol Hill for weeks, was spun up after 10 Republicans sent Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the committee chairman, a request that he suspend the hearing until they could get pre-sentencing reports tied to child pornography cases that Jackson presided over as a district judge.

Durbin immediately rejected the request, accusing Republicans of trying to go on a "fishing expedition."

Asked about the possibility that Republicans would try to bottle up Jackson's nomination in committee by skipping the vote - a tactic they've used in other committees - Durbin said he was talking with GOP senators but acknowledged that it was a "danger."

But several GOP senators are indicating they didn't support a boycott of Jackson, who, if confirmed by the full Senate, would be the first Black woman on the Supreme Court. The Judiciary Committee is split evenly, 11-11, meaning that to successfully boycott and try to bottle up Jackson's nomination in committee, every Republican would have to skip the committee vote.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is viewed as a "no" vote on Jackson, signaled he didn't think skipping the vote was a good idea.

"I don't think that's the right way," Graham said, asked if he would support a boycott.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who is also a member of the committee and an ally of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), told reporters that he thought Republicans should "show up and try to be on our best behavior and treat the nominee respectfully."

The committee is expected to hold a vote on Jackson's nomination on April 4, with Democrats eager to confirm her before they leave for a two-week April break.

Under committee rules, a nomination can't be reported to the full Senate "unless a majority of the Committee is actually present at the time such action is taken and a majority of those present support the action taken."

The Senate's rules also require that a simple majority be present in committee.

The committee rules also require two members of the minority to be present for a vote, but that has been waived in the past, including when Democrats skipped Justice Amy Coney Barrett's committee vote in 2020. At the time, Republicans had a 12-10 majority on the panel, meaning they could fulfill the simple majority requirement without Democratic help.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the top Republican on the committee, said that there had been no conversations with him about skipping the committee vote on Jackson's nomination.

"I intend to go to work and earn my money," Grassley said, adding that there was "no thought of" boycotting.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), one of several Republicans on the committee viewed as having presidential ambitions, indicated that he wouldn't boycott the vote unless his fellow Republicans on the committee decided as a group to skip the committee vote.

"No, I'm going to vote. If we're going to, vote I'm going to vote. I'm going to vote 'no,'" Hawley said, when asked if he would boycott if other senators on the panel, like Grassley and Tillis, did not skip the vote.