The senator praised Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson for how she handled herself as Brown also made an impression on the students.
Durbin said there were parts off the questioning this week that we so grueling, it would not have surprised him if Jackson had gotten up and walked out. She, of course, did not and is now poised to become the first Black woman to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court.
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"She went through a bruising hearing this week, I'll be very honest with you," said Durbin, (D) Illinois.
Durbin, who chaired the confirmation hearing, praised Jackson, calling her highly qualified for the job.
"I thought she did extraordinarily well," he said.
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Durbin met Friday with University of Illinois Chicago law students to discuss the hearing, its implications and what's at stake. Many of them watched parts of the proceedings, and were also impressed and inspired by Jackson.
"Seeing her up there, it's a reminder that somebody like me is uninhibited, I have the opportunity to do that. The Supreme Court is something that I can aspire to," said Kelly Baker, a UIC law student.
While Durbin thought Jackson handled herself well, he could not say the same for some Republicans on the committee who hounded Jackson on child porn sentences she's handed down.
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"The majority of senators were fair and respectful but a handful of them went over the edge, over the line and really made a mockery of the process," Durbin said.
As for the most surprising moment of the hearing, Durbin singled out Senator Corey Booker's speech on Monday.
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"I think he changed the mood in the room and on the committee," Durbin said.
Illinois' senior senator told students and reporters that this hearing could be a precursor to the next election cycle.
"I think many of the issues that were raised against her even if they didn't apply were attempts to test theories on how to get republicans elected or have some positive result in the next congressional campaign," Durbin said.
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Durbin said he is hopeful that the judiciary committee will approve Jackson's nomination on April 4 and that she can win the approval of the full Senate on April 8. Democrats can approve her nomination without any Republican support with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie.