When Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said that they would be willing to vote for Ketanji Brown Jackson after her questioning during congressional hearings, it practically guaranteed that she would be confirmed.
But they may not have seen the answer that she gave in response to a written question from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). It’s common practice to send the nominee written questions, in addition to grilling her during hearings. But her response is getting a lot of attention — and it’s not hard to see why.
Cruz asked, “Do you hold a position on whether individuals possess natural rights, yes or no?”
A simple question, one would think. At least if you believe in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. But if you thought Jackson’s answer about not being able to define a “woman” was a bad answer, this response was even worse.
Her response was not good, to say the least. “I do not hold a position on whether individuals possess natural rights.”
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies: "I do not hold a position on whether individuals possess natural rights." (From response to post-hearing written questions.) pic.twitter.com/NwH9vjsTLr
— Ed Whelan (@EdWhelanEPPC) April 1, 2022
Here’s the full response, in which she even says she has no position, after recognizing it’s part of the Declaration of Independence.
15. Please explain, in your own words, the theory prevalent among members of the Founding Fathers’ generation that humans possess natural rights that are inherent or inalienable.
RESPONSE: The theory that humans possess inherent or inalienable rights is reflected in the Declaration of Independence, which states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
16. Do you hold a position on whether individuals possess natural rights, yes or no?
RESPONSE: I do not hold a position on whether individuals possess natural rights.
a. If yes, what is your position?
RESPONSE: Please see my response to Question 16.
17. Please articulate your understanding of the distinction between natural law and positive law, and state whether you consider each to be relevant to the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, congressional power, or federal law?
RESPONSE: I understand natural law to refer to principles derived from nature that govern human conduct. I understand positive law to refer to enacted legal texts, such as the Constitution, federal statutes, and treaties. I interpret federal law according to the methods of interpretation employed by the Supreme Court, including by resolving cases or controversies based on the text at issue, any pertinent history, and any applicable precedent.
So, she doesn’t believe in the Declaration of Independence that we were created with “inalienable rights”? What is it that she thinks that the Constitution protects then? What does she think the first 10 Amendments are about — the Bill of Rights? It’s important to note that the Constitution doesn’t give those rights to you — it recognizes that you already have them.
If she believes in the right to an abortion — which isn’t even contained in the Constitution — upon what is she basing that right, if she doesn’t have an opinion on whether people are endowed with natural rights?
If she doesn’t even have an opinion on natural rights, from where does she believe “rights” stem – simply by leave of the government and the passage of laws? Natural rights are one of the fundamental underpinnings of our system, and if you don’t accept them, how can you say that you can uphold our system? This response should be disqualifying in and of itself.
Perhaps this is why she ducked questions about her “judicial philosophy” during her hearing because that would have revealed the problem. Because if this is your belief and you don’t believe that Americans have rights apart from those granted by the government, you can justify the government taking away all kinds of rights.
That’s certainly going to catch the attention of Sen. Cruz and many others who are already “no” votes. But will it affect the votes of Collins or Manchin?