WATCH: Sen. Grassley’s opening statement in Jackson Supreme Court confirmation hearings

As the Senate Judiciary Committee kicked off Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on March 21, Ranking Member Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, pushed back against accusations from Democrats that Republicans have been “vilifying nominees who have represented criminal defendants.” “That’s just not the case, and I think that’s a very unfair accusation,” he said.

Watch Grassley’s comments in the player above.

Grassley argued that previous Supreme Court justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett, have represented criminal defendants on appeals.

Jackson, 51, is to give her opening statement later Monday and answer questions on Tuesday and Wednesday from the panel’s 11 Democratic and 11 Republican senators.

Barring a significant misstep by the 51-year-old Jackson, a federal judge for the past nine years, Democrats who control the Senate by the slimmest of margins intend to wrap up her confirmation before Easter.

She would be the third Black justice, after Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, as well as the first Black woman on the high court.

“It’s not easy being the first. Often, you have to be the best, in some ways the bravest,” Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the committee chairman, said shortly after the proceedings began.

The committee’s senior Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, promised Republicans would “ask tough questions about Judge Jackson’s judicial philosophy,” without turning the hearings into a ”spectacle.”

Jackson’s testimony will give most Americans, as well as the Senate, their most extensive look yet at the Harvard-trained lawyer with a resume that includes two years as a federal public defender. That makes her the first nominee with significant criminal defense experience since Marshall.

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