Jackson nomination advances after Senate committee deadlocks

By Mike Hayes, Tierney Sneed, Ji Min Lee, Maureen Chowdhury and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 10:35 p.m. ET, April 4, 2022
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11:52 a.m. ET, April 4, 2022

Durbin: Jackson "stayed calm and collected" and "showed dignity, grace and poise" during confirmation hearing

From CNN's Mike Hayes

Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, talked about Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's "impeccable qualifications" and said that her varied career experience — including as a public defender and trial court judge — would bring a "missing perspective" to the Supreme Court.

"Justice Jackson will bring to the Supreme Court, the highest level of skill, integrity, civility and grace," Durbin said Monday in explaining his support for her. "This committee's action today is nothing less than making history. I'm honored to be part of it."

Durbin said it was "truly unfortunate" that some of his Republican colleagues on the committee levied "baseless attacks" against Jackson during their questioning during the confirmation hearings.

Durbin noted that Jackson has received "broad support" for her confirmation, including from law enforcement and Republican-appointed judges.

He also said that he was "impressed with her judicial temperament" while Republican committee members questioned her during the confirmation hearings. 

"On the whole, my Republican colleagues starting with my ranking member, Senator Grassley, treated the nominee with dignity and respect. They promised not to turn this confirmation process into a quote, 'circus' and most kept that process. Some, however, did not," Durbin said.

He continued: "Instead, they repeatedly interrupt and badgered Judge Jackson and accused her of vile things in front of her parents, her husband and her children. There was table-pounding, some literal, from a few of my colleagues."

Durbin criticized his Republican colleagues on the committee who he said "repeated discredited claims" about her record. 

"Judge Jackson is a better person than me. She stayed calm and collected, showed dignity, grace and poise. It is unfortunate that some moments in our hearing came to that, but if there's one positive to take away from these attacks on her, it is that the nation saw the temperament of a good strong person ready to serve on the highest court in the land," he said.

Watch Durbin's hearing remarks:

CNN's Alex Rogers contributed reporting to this post. 

11:29 a.m. ET, April 4, 2022

The Judiciary Committee is expected to be deadlocked today. Here's how the panel has voted on past nominees. 

From CNN's Alex Rogers

The Senate Judiciary Committee, a 22-member panel divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans, is expected to vote on party lines today — 11-11 — barring any unforeseen circumstances.

It's rare for the Senate Judiciary Committee to tie on a Supreme Court nomination.

But nomination battles have become increasingly contentious, and the current Senate is split 50-50, so there are an even number of Democrats and Republicans on the panel, rather than the majority party holding more seats.

Over the past five decades, the panel has deadlocked once — over Clarence Thomas, who was facing sexual harassment allegations. Fifteen justices —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 — passed the committee during that timeframe.

In 1987, Democrats who controlled the committee voted to unfavorably recommend President Ronald Reagan's nominee Robert Bork on ideological grounds. And in 2020, Democrats boycotted a committee vote on Barrett, arguing that the chamber should not consider President Donald Trump's lifetime appointment to the court while the country was voting in the presidential election.

In the Trump era, Senate Republicans strengthened the conservatives' grip on the court from 5-4 to 6-3, after holding up President Barack Obama's nominee Merrick Garland during another election year — 2016 — and then confirming Gorsuch in 2017, and Coney Barrett in 2020 to replace the late Ginsburg. Jackson's confirmation would likely replace a liberal — Breyer — with another.

Despite the expected tie vote on Jackson today, there are ways in which the panel or the Senate Democrats in power can still put her nomination to a confirmation vote in the days to come.

If confirmed, Jackson will be the first Black woman to be a Supreme Court justice.

10:26 a.m. ET, April 4, 2022

NOW: Senate committee meets to vote on Jackson's nomination

From CNN's Alex Rogers

Senate committee chair Dick Durbin, Democrat from Michigan, arrives for a Senate Judiciary Committee business meeting to vote on Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on April 4 in Washington, DC.
Senate committee chair Dick Durbin, Democrat from Michigan, arrives for a Senate Judiciary Committee business meeting to vote on Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on April 4 in Washington, DC. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The Senate Judiciary Committee is meeting now to vote on whether to advance Ketanji Brown Jackson's Supreme Court nomination.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on party lines — 11-11 — barring any unforeseen circumstances, but there are ways, in which, the panel or the Senate Democrats in power can still put her nomination to a confirmation vote in the days to come.

If confirmed, Jackson will be the first Black woman to be a Supreme Court justice.

Senate Republican and Democratic leaders agree that Jackson is a well-qualified nominee. Jackson, 51, sits on DC's federal appellate court and had been considered the front-runner for the vacancy since Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement.

Jackson previously worked as a clerk for Breyer, a federal public defender, an attorney in private practice, a federal district court judge and a member of the US Sentencing Commission.

But the vast majority of Senate Republicans will oppose Jackson. So far, Maine Sen. Susan Collins is the only Republican who has said she would support Jackson.

9:55 a.m. ET, April 4, 2022

The committee will vote on several lower court nominees too as Democrats keep that machinery cranking

From CNN's Tierney Sneed

Voting to advance Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will be the main event when the Senate Judiciary Committee meets Monday.

But the committee will also be sending to the Senate floor several other federal judge nominees, as Democrats push to keep the judiciary confirmation machinery cranking while Jackson dominated the spotlight.

Since Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement in late January, the Senate has confirmed 16 lower court judges — all while Democrats were managing the high-stakes, resource-intensive Supreme Court nomination process. They hope to only pick up the pace once Jackson is confirmed. President Joe Biden has more than 100 vacancies on lower courts to fill, and Democrats face the threat that they'll lose control of the Senate in November's midterms.

The Judiciary Committee is aiming to hold hearings on lower court nominations every other week while the Senate is in session in the months to come. The White House hopes to keep unveiling new nominees at a clip that there will be enough nominees in the queue for those hearings, during which the committee can hear testimony from up to five or six of Biden's picks for the bench.

Biden has outpaced former President Donald Trump so far in the number of judges put at the bench at equivalent points in their presidency. But Trump had the advantage of four full years that the Senate was under his party's controlled, something not guaranteed for Biden. Trump also had many more appellate vacancies available to fill — in addition to the three justices Trump was able to put on the Supreme Court.

Read more here:

9:34 a.m. ET, April 4, 2022

Here's where some GOP senators stand on Jackson's nomination

From CNN's Daniella Diaz, Clare Foran, Ali Zaslav and Morgan Rimmer

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, left, during her meeting with Ketanji Brown Jackson, in Washington, D.C., on March 8.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, left, during her meeting with Ketanji Brown Jackson, in Washington, D.C., on March 8. (Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine will vote to confirm President Biden’s Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, she said in a statement on March 30, the first GOP senator to do so.

“After reviewing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s extensive record, watching much of her hearing testimony, and meeting with her twice in person, I have concluded that she possesses the experience, qualifications, and integrity to serve as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court,” Collins said in her statement. “I will, therefore, vote to confirm her to this position.”

She first told The New York Times of her decision to support Jackson before releasing a statement. Jackson’s confirmation had been virtually assured following the announcement last month that moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia would vote for her, but Collins’ support means her confirmation will be bipartisan.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina announced on March 31 that he will not vote for Jackson, despite supporting her nomination to a previous Senate-confirmed position last year.

“I will oppose her and I will vote no,” Graham said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Graham, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, had been signaling he would likely vote against the Supreme Court nomination and directed highly critical questions at Jackson during her confirmation hearings before the panel.

Last week, in announcing he would oppose the nomination, the senator said, “My decision is based upon her record of judicial activism, flawed sentencing methodology regarding child pornography cases and a belief Judge Jackson will not be deterred by the plain meaning of the law when it comes to liberal causes.”

GOP Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri announced on Sunday that he will oppose Jackson's nomination.

"I think she's certainly going to be confirmed," he said on ABC's "This Week." "I think it'll be a high point for the country to see her go on the court and take her unique perspective to the court. But I don't think she's the kind of judge that will really do the kind of work that I think needs to be done by the court and I won't be supporting her but I'll be joining others and understanding the importance of this moment."

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney told reporters, last week that he doesn’t expect to reveal his decision until the day of the confirmation vote.

“After I’ve made a decision as to what I’m going to do on this vote, you’ll see it, but that’s probably not until the day of the vote itself,” he said.

Following the meeting with Jackson, Romney said in a statement that they “had a wide-ranging discussion about her experience and qualifications.”

“She’s a very impressive person. She’s intelligent, capable, she’s a lovely person as well and I think a great deal of her,” Romney later told CNN. “But delving into differences on judicial philosophy and her approach to the law is something that I’m going to keep working on.”

When the Senate voted to confirm Jackson last year to fill a vacancy on a powerful DC-based appellate court, three Republican senators voted with Democrats in favor: Graham, Collins and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. As a result, those three Republicans have been closely watched during the confirmation process.

9:35 a.m. ET, April 4, 2022

Analysis: Jackson demonstrated a serious and thoughtful demeanor as she faced offensive GOP questioning

From CNN's Joan Biskupic

Ketanji Brown Jackson during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., on March 23.
Ketanji Brown Jackson during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., on March 23. (Julia Nikhinson/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Beyond the hyperbole and theatrics that have punctuated this week's Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, a portrait of Ketanji Brown Jackson as jurist has begun to emerge.

Like the justice she would succeed, Stephen Breyer, Jackson leaned on multi-part legal methods and data points. She emphasized regard for judicial precedent. She also took a page from the conservative side of the bench when she spoke of searching for the "original" meaning of the Constitution.

"I believe that the Constitution is fixed in its meaning," she told senators. "I believe that it's appropriate to look at the original intent, original public meaning of the words ... that's a limitation on my authority to import my own policy views."

Yet she added that sometimes the "words are not enough," that a judge must "look at them in the context of history" and "the circumstances that you're dealing with in comparison to what those words meant at the time that they were adopted."

She stressed restraint at every turn. That may have been directed to the conservatives in her audience. Still, as a lower court judge for nearly a decade (most of that time as a trial judge), Jackson has shown scant interest in challenging established legal rules.

"I am acutely aware that as a judge, in our system," she told senators on Tuesday, "I have limited power, and I am trying in every case to stay in my lane."

During the questioning, ranking Judiciary Committee Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa tried to pin Jackson down on her precise "judicial philosophy."

"The philosophy is my methodology," she said. "It is a philosophy that I have developed from practice. Unlike some judges who come to appellate work from academia and who have some overarching theory of the law, I approach cases from experience, from practice and consistent with my constitutional obligations. So my philosophy is one in which I look at cases impartially, consistent with my independence as a judicial officer."

In terms of personal style, Jackson demonstrated a serious and thoughtful demeanor as she sat alone at the desk and was subject to harsh and offensive questioning from some Republicans.

"There are a lot of people who are book-smart," Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Tuesday. "There are not as many people who are person-smart. And you are both."

That could serve her well at the Supreme Court, which is currently marked by deep divisions and a tone of recrimination in some opinions. If confirmed, she would need all the persuasive ability she could muster. President Biden's choice to succeed Breyer would be in the minority liberal wing of the high court. The court is split 6-3, conservative-liberal, and she would not change that basic balance.

Most strikingly, Jackson would become the first Black female justice in the court's 233-year history. She also breaks the mold of most past nominees with her diverse experience, having served as a federal public defender, a trial judge and a member of the US Sentencing Commission.

Read the full analysis here.

9:36 a.m. ET, April 4, 2022

Manchin has said he will vote in favor of Jackson — a move that all but guarantees she will be confirmed

From CNN's Clare Foran

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin speaks to the press in the Senate Subway of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 5.
West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin speaks to the press in the Senate Subway of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 5. (Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin announced last month that he plans to vote for President Biden's Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, a move that all but guarantees she will be confirmed.

In a statement outlining his decision, Manchin said, "I met with Judge Jackson and evaluated her qualifications to be a Supreme Court Justice. After meeting with her, considering her record, and closely monitoring her testimony and questioning before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, I have determined I intend to vote for her nomination to serve on the Supreme Court."

Why this matters: Manchin's announcement is notable since he is a closely-watched moderate Democrat and key swing vote in the Senate. His decision to vote "yes" helps solidify the vote math for Senate Democrats to confirm the nominee.

Senate Democrats can confirm Jackson to the Supreme Court without Republican support if every member of their caucus votes in favor, which appears on track to happen, and Vice President Kamala Harris breaks a tie.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed in a floor speech to bring the nomination to the Senate floor "in short order" once the Senate Judiciary Committee advances the nomination. The Judiciary Committee is expected to vote today on the nomination.

Jackson appeared before the committee for high-profile confirmation hearings last month, which featured intense questioning by Senate Republicans.

So far, no Democrats have publicly signaled they would vote against the nominee, even as Republicans have worked to unleash potentially politically damaging attacks such as accusations that Jackson is soft on crime, a charge the nominee and many Democrats have pushed back on.

While Republicans have attacked the nominee's record this week, Democrats have praised her credentials and experience, describing her as exceptionally qualified. Democrats have also consistently emphasized the historic nature of Jackson's nomination. If confirmed, Jackson would be the first Black woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice.

8:56 a.m. ET, April 4, 2022

Jackson faced back-to-back confirmation hearings last month. Here's a reminder of what happened.

From CNN's Tierney Sneed

Four days of confirmation hearings on March 21-24 gave America the fullest picture yet of the judge who will likely become the first Black female justice of the US Supreme Court.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson spent three days in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee — two of them marathon sessions of questioning — where she described herself as an impartial and transparent jurist, while taking a calm but forceful tone to push back at GOP claims about her record. The dueling themes that Democrats and Republicans wanted to present about her nomination were punched up in a final day of testimony from outside witnesses.

Democrats are as eager as ever to confirm the DC federal appellate judge, as they decried the aggressive tactics employed by a handful of Republican members of the committee.

While she may pick up a few Republican votes, several GOP senators have sought to paint her as a soft on crime, "activist" judge, as they've used her hearings to showcase their messaging themes against Democrats heading into November's midterms.

Even with the GOP theatrics, the reality that her confirmation won't meaningfully change the conservative lean of the Supreme Court was still evident — particularly as Republican committee members launched attacks not just on Jackson, but on Supreme Court precedents protecting abortion rights, same-sex marriage and other landmark rulings.

Read more about her hearings here:

9:19 a.m. ET, April 4, 2022

These are the 22 senators on the Judiciary Committee who will vote on whether to advance Jackson's nomination

The Senate Judiciary Committee, a 22-member panel divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans, is slated to vote today on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's Supreme Court nomination before a vote moves to the full 100-member Senate.

The committee is expected to vote on party lines — 11-11 — barring any unforeseen circumstances, but there are ways, in which, the panel or the Senate Democrats in power can still put her nomination to a confirmation vote in the days to come. 

Here's who is on the panel:

Democrats:

  • Committee Chair: Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California
  • Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
  • Sen. Christopher Coons of Delaware
  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut
  • Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii
  • Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey
  • Sen. Alex Padilla of California
  • Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia

Republicans:

  • Ranking member: Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina
  • Sen. John Cornyn of Texas
  • Sen. Mike Lee of Utah
  • Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas
  • Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska
  • Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri
  • Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas
  • Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana
  • Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina
  • Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee

Jackson has already been confirmed by the Senate three times for prior roles.

When the Senate voted to confirm Jackson last year to fill a vacancy on a powerful DC-based appellate court, three Republican senators voted with Democrats in favor: Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

CNN's Alex Rogers contributed reporting to this post.