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Ketanji Brown Jackson's sleepy confirmation fight finally wakes up

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 25, 2022, after President Joe Biden delivered remarks on his nomination of her to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.Oliver Contreras / Sipa USA via AP

WASHINGTON — If it’s Monday ... President Joe Biden heads later this week to a NATO conference in Brussels. ... Ukraine rejects Russia's demand to surrender Mariupol. ... Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is hospitalized. ... China Eastern 737 crashes in southern China. ... Ohio Senate forum gets combative… And RIP, Don Young.

But first: You have to go back to the 1990s with Stephen Breyer to find a Supreme Court confirmation on the political backburner as much as Ketanji Brown Jackson’s has been since Biden nominated her to the court a month ago.

Part of the reason is the war in Ukraine, which has dominated the news over the last month. The other part is that this Supreme Court seat doesn’t change the court’s balance of power — with Jackson replacing Breyer on what’s already a 6-to-3 conservative majority court.

Still, this confirmation fight finally heats up this week, with four days of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings that start Monday morning.

“The day is set to feature opening remarks by the chair and members of the committee, followed by remarks from Jackson,” who is seeking to become the Supreme Court’s first Black female justice, NBC’s Sahil Kapur reports.

Introducing Jackson, NBC's Ali Vitali adds, will be conservative former D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Thomas Griffith and University of Pennsylvania law professor Lisa Fairfax.

The hearings come as some Republican senators have ramped up their attacks on Jackson, portraying her as being soft on crime.

“Last week, [Sen. Josh] Hawley issued a series of tweets arguing that Jackson isn’t tough enough on sex offenders who prey on children. White House spokesman Andrew Bates, pointing to fact checks that debunk the claims as misleading or distortions of her record, assailed Hawley’s ‘desperate conspiracy theory’ and said it was based on “toxic and weakly-presented misinformation,” Kapur writes.

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Data Download: The number of the day is … 55 percent

That’s the portion of Americans who say Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson should be confirmed to the Supreme Court, according to a new Monmouth University poll, with 21 percent saying she couldn’t be confirmed and 24 percent with no opinion. Forty seven percent say she’s at least very or somewhat qualified, 9 percent say she is not qualified and 43 percent don’t know enough to share their opinion.

A slim majority, 53 percent, approve of Biden’s pledge to name a Black woman to the court with his first pick (with 41 percent disapproving). And 69 percent say that having a court that’s more reflective of the nation’s diversity is important.

Other numbers you need to know today:

0: The number of Republican members of Congress who served longer than the late Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, whose tenure spanned 49 years.

At least 30: How many state legislative leaders (House speakers, Senate presidents and majority leaders) have retired or will retire at the end of their terms, per The Hill and the National Conference of State Legislatures.

$4 million: How much spending has been tracked by AdImpact on ads this cycle that use the phrase “RINO” (Republican in Name Only).

28: The number of people shot (with one killed) at an Arkansas car show this past weekend.

94 percent: How effective a third dose of Covid vaccination (Moderna or Pfizer) was at preventing death and the need for a patient to be ventilated in January, per a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study reported on by The Washington Post.

10 million: The number of people who have fled their homes as Russia attacks Ukraine, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

238: The number of bills filed in state legislatures that would limit the rights of LGBTQ people.

Tweet of the day

Midterm roundup: Almost a Buckeye brawl

“Everyone’s coming out swinging tonight,” the moderator of a FreedomWorks forum featuring Ohio’s GOP Senate candidates said with a laugh Friday night after former state Treasurer Josh Mandel called out investment banker Mike Gibbons.

The moderator probably didn’t think punches would actually be thrown, but 10 minutes later, Mandel and Gibbons seemingly almost came to blows as Mandel knocked Gibbons’ stock holdings and business dealings in China.

“You’ve never been in the private sector,” Gibbons said, prompting Mandel to stand up and go nose-to-nose with Gibbons. “You don’t know squat,” Gibbons added, and Mandel responded, “Two tours in Iraq, don’t tell me I haven’t worked!” The crowd booed as the pair had to be separated.

The episode highlights how nasty some GOP primaries have become, overshadowing discussions about more substantive policy differences. Case in point? The altercation came after a question about the U.S. response to the war in Ukraine.

Elsewhere on the trail:

Oklahoma Senate: Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt phoned former President Donald Trump to ask for his endorsement as he considers a run for the state’s open Senate seat, NBC’s Julie Tsirkin reports.

Pennsylvania Senate: Former first lady Melania Trump has told her husband she supports celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz in the state’s crowded GOP Senate primary race.

Pennsylvania governor: State Attorney General Josh Shapiro is embracing his support for abortion rights in his gubernatorial bid with the future of Roe v. Wade hanging in the balance.

South Carolina 01: NBC News heads down to Summerville to take a look at the Trump-backed attempt to oust GOP Rep. Nancy Mace.

Ad watch: Drug price focus

Wisconsin state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski is focusing on drug prices in her new TV ad, criticizing both GOP Sen. Ron Johnson and her fellow Democrats.

“For decades, Washington politicians have promised to lower the cost of prescription drugs. But every year, the prices go up. Why? Because Republicans like Ron Johnson — and let’s be honest, too many Democrats — don’t have the guts to stand up to the pharmaceutical companies,” Godlewski says in the 30-second spot, shared first with NBC News.

The ad is part of a “seven-figure” ad buy across TV and digital platforms in the state’s major media markets, per Godlewski’s campaign.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Maryland and Georgia have temporarily suspended their gas taxes to give residents a break at the pump.

A small, but vocal, minority of Republicans continues to argue for “America First” isolationism over supporting Ukraine.

Many Democrats want to shake up the presidential nominating calendar. But that could prove more difficult than it sounds.

Political campaigns are taking to TikTok as they look to win over younger voters.

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