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Senate panel will hold 4 days of hearings for Biden's Supreme Court nominee

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

The Senate Judiciary Committee meets this week to consider President Biden's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. If confirmed, Jackson would be the first Black woman to serve on the nation's highest court.

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KETANJI BROWN JACKSON: If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, I can only hope that my life and career, my love of this country and the Constitution, will inspire future generations of Americans.

MARTINEZ: Democrats say she's unquestionably qualified and prepared for the role. And they're hoping, even in these deeply partisan times, that at least a few Republicans will agree and vote for her confirmation. NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell will be covering the hearings all week. Kelsey, what can we expect to see during the hearings this week?

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Well, today is just the first day. It's all about opening statements. You know, every member gets a chance to kind of say their bit about Jackson today, and then Jackson herself gets to speak. Usually, it's a general overview of a nominee's personal story. So we'll hear about her qualifications and what she'll bring to the court, a little bit more about that personal story we heard a bit there. It's kind of an easing in. And then Tuesday is a marathon. They're expected to go about 12 hours with short breaks for lunch and dinner, and then every member gets 30 minutes to question Jackson. That's kind of when we see a lot of kind of the heated back-and-forth in the past.

Wednesday will involve more questions, but we expect a shorter day. And Thursday is all about character witnesses, friends and family giving their perspective on the judge. It usually is kind of a less intense day. Then about a week or so later, the committee will come back and meet again for a public session to vote on her nomination. You know, Democrats hope that all of that will wrap up fairly quickly, and they can hold a final floor vote before Easter.

MARTINEZ: Now, Republicans are already going after Judge Jackson. For example, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley tweeted an allegation that Jackson has a record of being soft on sex offenders, among other things. Is that representative of what we're going to see and hear from other Republicans?

SNELL: So I should start by saying that Hawley's comments have been repeatedly debunked, and independent fact-checkers have said the allegation is false. You know, most Republicans I've talked to avoided talking about Hawley entirely. They usually kind of pivot to saying they have questions about her record. They say they're going to ask them in the committee. But they've mostly tried to avoid even acknowledging some of the attacks that people like Hawley are discussing. One good example is Senator John Barrasso. He's one of the top Republicans in the Senate. And here's how he described it yesterday on ABC's "This Week."

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JOHN BARRASSO: Going through the record, there are some concerns that people have about her being perceived as soft on crime. That's all going to come out with the hearings. But they're going to be respectful, they're going to be thorough, and they're going to be fair.

SNELL: Some other things I've heard from Republicans are questions about her work representing Guantanamo Bay detainees and how she would approach questions of the law. You know, but Hawley is on the Judiciary Committee, and he will have an opportunity to make these allegations live on TV, you know, and that's regardless of what Republican leaders hope or plan for.

MARTINEZ: So how are Democrats preparing to come to her defense?

SNELL: Well, they say they've got an organized plan to counter attacks like this. Here's Dick Durbin. He's the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. And he explained it a little bit yesterday, also on ABC.

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DICK DURBIN: There's no truth to what he says. And he's part of a fringe within the Republican Party.

SNELL: You know, when I talk to Democrats, they say their main goal right now is really just ensuring that Jackson gets bipartisan support when her nomination comes up for a final vote on the Senate floor. You know, they don't necessarily need Republican votes to confirm her, but it remains a goal for them. And there really aren't any major hurdles seen for Jackson at this point.

MARTINEZ: Now, Kelsey, we've got some other news from the Supreme Court last night about the health of Justice Clarence Thomas. What do we know?

SNELL: So we heard last night that the court said that he was admitted to a hospital on Friday with flu-like symptoms and remains hospitalized with an infection. Now, you may recall, Thomas is 73 years old, and he's one of the court's conservative stalwarts. He's also the only sitting Black justice. His condition is said to be improving, and the court's statement said he should be released in the next day or so. There are arguments this week, and he'll be able to participate in rulings even though he's not there by reviewing the written materials in those cases and with audio recordings of the arguments. So they say he'll still be able to participate.

MARTINEZ: All right. That's NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell. Thanks a lot.

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