Ketanji Brown Jackson on Schedule to be Confirmed to U.S. Supreme Court by End of Week
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is one step closer to making history as the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Two crucial procedural votes on Monday moved the process along to the next step, setting up a potential vote to confirm her by the end of the week.
Looking Back on the Day’s Votes
The day started with the Senate Judiciary Committee voting to move forward with President Joe Biden’s pick. In a move that was not a surprise to anyone, the committee voted along party lines with a final count of 11-11. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was then forced to use his power to invoke special procedures to keep the nomination process moving forward for the Democrats. By filing a “motion to discharge” the vote from the committee, the decision was then given to the Senate to advance the nomination.Read More »
Those three bipartisan votes came from Utah’s Mitt Romney, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, and Maine’s Susan Collins. With all Democrats expected to vote in support of Biden’s nomination, the votes to advance the nomination from these Republican senators nearly guarantee that Jackson’s confirmation will sail through easily.
What is Next in the Process?
Democrats are hopeful that the final vote will happen on Friday, wrapping up the process before the Senate leaves town for the spring recess. The 51-year-old Jackson currently sits on D.C.’s federal appellate court. If confirmed, she will move into the vacancy on the court that will be left when Justice Stephen Breyer retires at the end of his term this summer.
Monday’s votes came after the nominee spent the last few weeks meeting individually with senators. Jackson also faced over 20 hours of questioning during her confirmation hearings, putting her on the spot and grilling her on her sentencing record and overall philosophy when making judicial decisions. Despite the scrutiny by the Republicans, Jackson has been praised by both parties.
Diving Into the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Decision
It is unusual for the Senate Judiciary Committee to tie when voting on a Supreme Court nomination. However, this deadlock was not surprising considering that the current Senate makeup is split 50-50, translating to an equal number of Democrats and Republicans on the panel. Traditionally, the majority party will hold more seats on the committee.
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Going back over the last five decades, there has only been one other time that the panel recorded a tie vote. This happened in 1991 when Justice Clarence Thomas created controversy because he was in the midst of dealing with sexual harassment allegations. Over the last 50 years, 15 justices passed the committee vote, including William Rehnquist, John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.
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Other notable votes of the committee included the 1987 decision to not recommend President Ronald Reagan’s nominee Robert Bork. The Democratic controlled committee rejected the Republican president’s nominee on ideological grounds. More recently in 2020, Democrats boycotted the committee vote on Barrett using the reason that the Senate should not be in the position to confirm a nominee while the nation was just weeks from a presidential election and also in the middle of a global pandemic.
Response to Jackson
As expected, support for Jackson has largely fallen along party lines. On Monday, the Judiciary Committee chairman, Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin praised Jackson for her “skill, integrity, civility, and grace.” While all 50 Democrats are expected to vote to confirm Jackson, it will be an entirely different story for the Republican contingent of senators. As of late Tuesday, Collins, Romney, and Murkowski are the only Republican senators who have voiced their intent to vote to confirm.
In her official statement supporting the confirmation, Murkowski said on Monday that she is also voting to confirm Jackson as a means to reject the “corrosive politicization” of how Supreme Court nominees are now reviewed. Meanwhile, some of Murkowski’s colleagues have attempted to cast Jackson as a part of the radical left. For example, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz asserted that she will be the furthest-left justice to serve on the court.
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The Democrats have been anxious to get one of their justices appointed to the court after the Republicans added three judges during the era of President Donald Trump. In addition to confirming Gorsuch in 2017, the Senate also confirmed Kavanaugh in 2018 and Coney Barrett in 2020. Even with a confirmation of Jackson, the court will still lean heavily to the right since Breyer has distinguished himself for his liberal ideology.
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