Sen. Cory Booker Brings Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to Tears at Her Confirmation Hearing: 'You Are Worthy'

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Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
Getty Images / Anna Moneymaker

Sen. Cory Booker is refusing to let any of his peers take away the historic glory of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's nomination. During the tense third day of the Supreme Court nominee's confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the junior United States senator from New Jersey brought tears to Jackson’s eyes as he praised her poise during continued conservative attacks.

"This has been not a surprise, given the history that we all know, but perhaps a little bit of a disappointment, some of the things that have been said in this hearing," Booker said, crediting Jackson for her "grit and grace" and "extraordinary demeanor" in the face of the GOP senators' questionable tone.

Booker became emotional as he recognized the journey that Jackson -- who would be the first Black woman on the Supreme Court -- took to get to her current nomination. 

"You got here how every Black woman in America who's gotten anywhere has done… like Ginger Rogers said: 'I did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in heels,'" he added. "Nobody's stealing my joy."

"I want to tell you when I look at you, this is why I get emotional," he shared as the only Black member of the Senate committee and one of only three Black senators. "I'm sorry -- you're a person that is so much more than your race and gender."

Booker noted that Jackson is a Christian, a mother and an intellect and that she has a love of books.

"It's hard for me not to look at you and see my mom, my cousins… I see my ancestors and yours," he went on to say, as Jackson and others in the audience wiped away tears. "Nobody's going to steal the joy of that woman in the street, or the calls that I'm getting, or the texts. Nobody's going to steal that joy. You have earned this spot. You are worthy. You are a great American... You're here. And I know what it's taken for you to sit in that seat."

Referencing how the film Hidden Figures finally elevated recognition for the work of Black women behind the NASA program, Booker noted how remarkable Jackson and her parents' patriotism is, even though their country "didn't love them back."

"All these people loved their country," Booker said. "You faced insults here that were shocking to me — well, actually not shocking. But you are here because of that kind of love, and nobody is taking that away from me."

Booker shared a video of his speech alongside a tweet, writing, "Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has earned this moment in history, she is worthy, she is a truly great American."

President Joe Biden nominated Jackson last month to replace liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, who, at 83, is the oldest justice on the Supreme Court. Breyer will retire at the end of this term.

Jackson, currently a judge on the D.C. Circuit, is the first former federal public defender to ever be nominated to the Supreme Court. If confirmed, she would be the only justice besides Justice Sonia Sotomayor on the high court with actual trial experience.

Per CBSNews, Jackson fielded questions from senators for two marathon days of questioning on Tuesday and Wednesday, with Republicans pressing her to explain sentencing decisions in a number of child pornography cases during her time as a federal judge in a U.S. district court. Jackson repeatedly defended her record, explaining her approach to the law and rebutting suggestions that she imposed lenient sentences.

"Some of the attacks on this judge were unfair, unrelenting and beneath the dignity of the United States Senate," Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, said at the start of the day's proceedings. "You can disagree with a senator's vote. You can disagree with a judge's ruling. But to draw conclusions that really reflect on them personally and their values and take it to the extreme is unfair whether the nominee is a Democrat or a Republican."

The Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on whether to advance Jackson's nomination to the full Senate on April 4, and Democratic leaders are aiming for her final confirmation vote by April 8, when they depart for a two-week recess.

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