By breaking with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) over Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, three moderate Republicans have sent a clear message that they are not happy with the way the confirmation procedures of the Supreme Court have become partisan.

The senses. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine) and Mitt Romney (Utah) have strongly rejected the tactics of more conservative colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who grilled Jackson during her confirmation hearings and accused her of being lenient towards child pornography offenders. .

Murkowski told reporters that she believes colleagues such as Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) had gone too far in challenging Jackson to defend her record, although she didn’t mention anyone by name.

“Some weren’t super great,” she said. “I think there was a level of personal attack that was unwarranted.”

The three centrist Republicans have expressed concern about how the Supreme Court confirmation debates have turned into partisan food fights.

Collins said she hopes her vote for the nominee will help lower the partisan temperature of the Senate confirmation process.

“I think what needs to happen is first and foremost that people need to ignore groups like Demand Justice who are pressuring them to vote one way or another on Supreme Court justices. “, she said, referring to the progressive advocacy group that lobbied Judge Stephen Breyer. to retire and in February announced a $1 million publicity buy to support Jackson’s nomination.

“And second, we have to go back to what Congress clearly defines as the role of the Senate versus the president, Collins said, alluding to his view that Congress should grant the president, regardless of party. , “considerable deference” to the high court. nominees.

She argues that giving the president more deference to fill the court, as the Senate did when it confirmed Reagan nominee Antonin Scalia 98-0 and Clinton nominee Ruth Bader Ginsburg 96-3, “helped keep the court above the political fray”.

Romney, who voted against confirming Jackson to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals last year, said he became more comfortable with the idea of ​​her serving on the Supreme Court after meeting her in person and reviewing her file.

“I was afraid in the past that she was not part of the mainstream. During our conversation together and during the hearing, I concluded that she was. That, plus her qualifications, m brought me to where I was,” he explained.

Romney, who was elected to the Senate in 2018, said he was unsure how future confirmation debates should play out, but expressed concern about the intense partisanship surrounding recent nominees.

“The real question for me will be when you have a governing party in the Senate that is different from the president, how are we going to fill the judiciary?” he said. “That’s why I think Senator Collins brought up the issues that she raised.”

It’s a message moderates want to send to leaders of both parties, including Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (DN.Y.), who helped lead fierce resistance to conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 and Amy Coney Barrett in 2020.

After Collins, Murkowski and Romney sent a clear signal that they wanted to lower the partisan temperature surrounding the Supreme Court confirmation process, McConnell declined on Tuesday to say whether he would allow President Biden to fill another vacancy. in court if Republicans regain a Senate majority in November.

“What I can say with pretty good certainty is that the president who ran as a moderate and who governed like Bernie Sanders would have to spend the last two years of his term being a moderate,” he said. McConnell told reporters when asked if he would. commit to holding a vote on another Supreme Court nominee Biden if he becomes Senate Majority Leader again in 2023.

McConnell kept the Scalia seat vacant for most of 2016 after the conservative judge died in February of that year, refusing to grant then-President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland a hearing or a vote.

This raised the possibility that McConnell would play the same card again or that Schumer or a future Democratic majority leader would do the same with a Republican president.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (RS.C.), a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Monday that Republicans would not have allowed Jackson to join the Supreme Court if they controlled the agenda.

“If we get the Senate back and we are in charge of that body and there are legal openings, we will talk to our colleagues on the other side. But if we were responsible, she wouldn’t have appeared before this committee. You would have had someone more moderate than that,” he said.

But moderates worry that these types of threats could undermine the Supreme Court’s independence and influence in the long run.

Murkowski, who is up for reelection this year, said she doesn’t know if future presidents would be able to appoint new justices to the court when their party doesn’t also control the Senate.

“Think what it will do in court,” she said. “Think of the position the legislature will put the judiciary in if we don’t allow this to continue.

“That would mean you would have a handicap court. Remember, these are three separate but equal branches and we would handicap one of the three for political motivation,” she said. “What happens when you have a new President and a new Senate, a new Senate majority, and the turnaround is fair game?

“Eventually you get to a place where you can’t confirm the judges, and they don’t live forever. What do we do? Kill off the field. We are heading towards a place which I think is dangerous for the courts.

Murkowski, Collins and Romney, who each played key roles in negotiating last year’s bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill, the biggest bipartisan achievement of Biden’s first year in office, say that it is more important to consider a candidate on his merits than to score political points by maintaining partisan unity.

With the senses. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) form the Senate Common Sense Caucus, a group dedicated to showing that the Senate can still work on a bipartisan level to get things done. The caucus criticized loud calls from both sides of the political spectrum to get rid of the Senate filibuster and turn the upper house into something more like the House, where the majority party absolutely rules.

“I think we clearly had an impact on the infrastructure bill, where there were five Democrats and five Republicans who worked so hard – together over 50 meetings – and we were able to produce a bill that was finally passed and represented the largest infrastructure investment since the Interstate Highway System,” Collins said.

Collins, Murkowski, Romney, Manchin and Sinema are working to make bipartisanship work again in the Senate, but they also realize that the polarizing forces of American politics are far greater than the interpersonal dynamics of Capitol Hill.

“In many ways, Congress currently reflects an increasingly polarized America. So I think it starts at home with people realizing that we need to work together to identify common issues and be more respectful and civil in our dialogue,” Collins said.

Jackson is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate later this week.