Jackson’s Confirmation Fight Matters Less Than Her Win

The Back Booth will be hosting a Weekend edition of The D.C. Brief. Here each Saturday, TIME’s politics newsletter will host a conversation between political professionals on the right and the left, pulling back the curtain on the conversations taking place in Washington when the tape stops rolling. Subscribe to The D.C. Brief Here.

Amid all the shouting on social media and cable television, it’s easy to forget that much of what Washington spends its time fighting over often amounts to nothing.

It was this week that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a nominee for the Supreme Court’s first Black female judge, cleared the Senate. This included three Republicans as well as all fifty Democrats. Two Republicans—Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina—cast their votes from the members-only lounge just off the Senate floor because they couldn’t be bothered to dress for the occasion. It was a scene that could potentially have electoral consequences for Republicans.

As the week took shape, The D.C. Brief chatted by email with two pros who were keeping close tabs on how Congress was conducting its business, as well as how Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine was shaping global markets. The right Matt Beynon has been at the elbow of former Sen. Rick Santorum’s political operations for years. He was a former Leader’s Aide and now advises several state, local, and federal candidates about how best to deliver the message that is most relevant for today and the market.

To the right, Kristen Hawn has helped to define Democrats’ centrist ranks as a former strategist for the shrinking Blue Dog Coalition. It was her contribution that helped moderates to navigate Wall Street bailouts, financial regulations, and Obamacare.

This conversation was lightly edited.

Philip Elliott: So, it’s Monday night and the Senate has decided it’s ready to start voting on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court after a long day of speechifying and posturing. The vote was finally initiated by the Democrats and three Republicans only. This is the new normal, isn’t it? Or are Supreme Court selections just one of those votes where you have no choice but to follow the party’s base unless you’re a notoriously mavericky figure like Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins or Mitt Romney? I’m especially curious about Matt’s thinking on this one, having worked in Senate Leadership early in his career.

Hawn: I’ll let Matt handle the Senate since I spent all of my time on the Hill in the lower chamber. Sen. Murkowski rightly states that it has been toxic to both sides of this aisle. I was pretty shocked by some of the accusations during the hearing, but maybe I shouldn’t be shocked by anything anymore.

Beynon – Does confirmation hearing crossing the line of decency It is not. They have been at times throughout the years. Unfortunately, yes. However, the Judicial Branch and specifically the Supreme Court are unelected branches of government. A confirmation hearing allows for the best opportunity to question those nominees about their beliefs, views on the Constitution and perspective on law.

This goes beyond simply checking the boxes in a resume about where someone attended law school and who they worked for. Once they are on the Court, they’re on the Court for life, and their records and philosophies should be publicly scrutinized. Add in the debate over issues like abortion and religious liberty, and you’re going to get a heated process.

Elliott: Now we have the President for the United States PhoneFor a trial on war-crimes of President of Russia. He, however, StopThe White House did not accuse his counterpart of genocide, and officials made sure to emphasize that this crime is legalistic. Foreign Policy Twitter spent a lot of time on this today, but if you’re running a race in a competitive House district, does this matter a lick? Kristen: How much do your corporate clients want you to use your decoder rings on this part of their reputational-risk and fiscal planning?

Hawn: When it comes to planning for reputational risk, companies are seeing a rise in their efforts. Particularly big employers. This is a new generation of workers, who are interested in what their opinions on important social issues are. They also have to be aware of the impact they make on their local communities. It is a common task for us to work with businesses to help them decide how and when they should speak out. It can also be very positive if it is done well.

Beynon: Whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, or Independent, you need to get gas, you need to get milk, and you’re feeling the pinch at the checkout line. I think people are universally horrified by the images they’re seeing on their TVs, but if you can’t afford to put gas in your car or food on your table, the war in Ukraine is a secondary issue when you head to the polls.

Elliott: I’m curious how you’re seeing the student loan-pause NewsPlay out. Every single slippage will result in a repayment End dateIt seems that the White House has begun to lay the foundations for student loan forgiveness. Do I have it wrong?

Beynon: Call me a cynic, but I think this is less about laying the groundwork for permanent student loan forgiveness and more about the Biden Administration’s sinking poll numbers with younger voters, which were once one of his strongest voting blocs as they head into the midterms.

Hawn: I don’t know if this is about a political calculation over policy, but the truth is young people don’t turn out for the midterms in nearly the numbers they do for the presidential election. And there are a number of people across the political spectrum who don’t agree with student loan forgiveness for valid reasons.

Elliott: It was a nice conversation. As we just saw Judge Jackson confirmed to the Senate seat, it made me wonder how history would have interpreted this situation in an increasingly hostile confirmation system.

Beynon – I believe history will forget about the floor debates and the glass ceiling Justice Jackson broke during her confirmation. She’s on the Court now for life and her legacy will now be made through her rulings.

Hawns: We are in agreement with Jackson’s confirmation. The divisive and politically motivated remarks that a few senators made during the confirmation process will be forgotten by no one.

Elliott: Is it me or is the whole public letting go of Russia-Ukraine? The UN, I am referring to Russia from its human rights panel and I wouldn’t be shocked to find local newspapers forget to mention it in tomorrow’s editions.

Beynon: Sadly, I think you’re right. As a society, we have such short attention spans that we want immediate results for almost everything. This includes the Ukraine crisis. It’s really not a healthy thing, because you have global threats that do take the long view and are prepared to essentially wait us out.

Hawn says: Matt is right. Russia does not appear to be retreating. The Ukrainian people require our support. An important part of that is the media’s continued coverage of the atrocities committed by Vladimir Putin. There does appear to be some fatigue. However, democratic countries and leaders around the world should provide assistance to the Ukrainian people in the long-term.

Elliott: Thanks for the candid conversation this week.

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