Leahy zings Ted Cruz, plus other top hearing moments

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Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson on Wednesday is facing a second day of questioning from Senate Judiciary Committee members considering her confirmation to the nation's highest court. Republican committee members have reprised their lines of attack against Jackson, questioning her sentencing in child pornography cases and probing how she might rule on cases involving abortion and Second Amendment rights.

Here are the key moments from Jackson's second day of Q&A with senators on Capitol Hill:

Leahy about Cruz: I know the junior senator from Texas likes to get on TV

Sen. Patrick Leahy rebuked Sen. Ted Cruz midway through Wednesday’s confirmation hearing after Cruz interrupted the proceedings.

“I know the junior senator from Texas likes to get on television, but most of us have been here a long time trying to follow the rules,” Leahy (D-Vt.) said.

In the silence between Sen. Josh Hawley’s and Sen. Mazie Hirono’s time for questioning, Cruz interjected and asked that a letter signed by 10 GOP senators be added to the record. The letter, addressed to Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin, demands Democrats release probation reports from child pornography cases that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson handled.

Hawley, who finished his questioning moments before Cruz’s interjection, spent his time asking Jackson about her child pornography rulings.

“Just now, Judge Jackson told Senator Hawley you cannot understand the cases without reading the probation reports,” Cruz said. “Ten senators on this committee are asking the chairman to provide those reports so we can do what Judge Jackson just said, which is to assess those reports.

“If you want to send any letter, you can do it by hand or by mail,” Durbin said.

Leahy made the point that Hawley could’ve used his time to introduce the letter to the record, but did not.

“I waited my turn here and I’ve been on this committee for 47 years,” Leahy said. “I think we ought to follow the regular order.”

Cruz erupts on Durbin: ‘I know you like to interrupt’

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) finished his questioning Wednesday by erupting on Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), claiming the Judiciary Committee chair “took over a minute of his time” given to question Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Cruz was midway through a final question when Durbin struck his gavel and announced Cruz’s time had expired. “You’ve been given extra time,” Durbin said. “You usually ask for it.”

“I know you want to interrupt,” Cruz responded. “I know you don’t like this line of questions.”

Cruz asked Jackson about her rulings in child pornography cases, and brought back his case-by-case chart that he used Tuesday. Cruz said he wanted to “go through each of them” and hear Jackson’s reasoning for each sentencing.

On multiple occasions, Jackson explained she’d already said all she would say on the topic, noting that she did not have the record for each individual case on hand. When Cruz interrupted by claiming she was not answering the questions, Durbin interjected.

“Senator, would you please let her respond?” Durbin asked.

“No, not if she’s not going to answer my questions,” Cruz said. “If you want to filibuster, you’re welcome to do so, but do it on your own time.”

Senators were each allotted 30 minutes each for questions on Tuesday and 20 minutes on Wednesday.

Jackson will recuse herself from Harvard affirmative action case, she says

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will recuse herself from Supreme Court deliberations dealing with affirmative action at Harvard should she be confirmed, she said Wednesday.

Jackson, a graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School, currently sits on the university’s Board of Overseers. Cruz, one of Jackson’s former law school classmates, asked Jackson about Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, which alleges the university discriminates against Asian Americans in its admissions practices.

“If you’re confirmed, do you intend to recuse from this lawsuit?” Cruz asked.

“That is my plan, Senator,” Jackson responded.

The court will combine review of the Harvard case with a similar lawsuit alleging race-based discrimination in admissions practices at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Cruz called the Harvard policy an act of “explicit and, in my view, egregious” discrimination.

Graham fumes over child pornography rulings

Tensions flared while Sen. Lindsay Graham questioned Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson about her past rulings in child pornography cases Wednesday.

An increasingly animated Graham (R-S.C.) asked the Supreme Court nominee about the best forms of deterrence and punishment for those involved in child pornography, a repeated questioning topic for Republicans during the three-day confirmation hearings.

“Do you think it's a bigger deterrent to take somebody who's on a computer, looking at sexual images of children in the most disgusting way, is to supervise their computer habits versus putting them in jail?” Graham asked.

“No, Senator, I didn’t say ‘versus,’” Jackson said.

“No, that’s exactly what you said,” Graham interrupted. The best way to deter these criminals is “to put their ass in jail, not supervise their computer usage,” he said.

Graham repeatedly interrupted Jackson while she attempted to answer his questions, causing Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to repeatedly intervene, saying, “Senator, would you let her respond?”

Tillis gets dicey in questioning of Jackson

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson corrected Sen. Thom Tillis on Wednesday after he misrepresented her decision in a 2020 ruling.

Tillis (R-N.C.), the last GOP lawmaker to question Jackson during the first round of her Senate Judiciary Hearing, asked her Wednesday about United States v. Wiggins, in which she declined to grant an inmate early release amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Tillis's questioning suggested that he believed Jackson supported release for the inmate and the senator interrupted the Supreme Court nominee multiple times as she attempted to explain.

“How can I not read this to say that perhaps they should be released, irrespective of the crime for which they've been charged?” Tillis asked.

“Senator, if you read two more sentences down, that is precisely what I focused on,” Jackson responded.

Also during his 30 minutes of initial questioning, Tillis spoke of an “ecosystem” of activist groups that want to expand the Supreme Court, and asked Jackson if she’d had any interaction with these groups. She said she had not.

“I actually hope that you can, at some point, study the issue thoroughly and understand the risk to this institution that you're likely to be confirmed to,” Tillis said. “It's serious. And you could end up being there. You'll have a lifetime appointment. You could actually be there and witness its demise real time if we allow the court to be packed.”