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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10:35 p.m. ET, April 4, 2022

The Senate advanced Jackson's Supreme Court nomination with a procedural vote. Here's what you need to know

From CNN's Tierney Sneed

(Alex Brandon/AP)
(Alex Brandon/AP)

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is expected to be confirmed as the first Black woman Supreme Court justice this week, after a bipartisan group of senators voted on Monday to advance her nomination.

After the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-11, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for a vote to break the deadlock and send her nomination to the floor. Every Democrat and three Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — voted in support of Jackson.

Senate Republican and Democratic leaders agree that Jackson is a well-qualified nominee, but almost all GOP senators are expected to oppose her. 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.

Here are some key takeaways from Monday's Senate committee vote:

Procedural hurdle overcome and bipartisan support gained: The committee deadlocking on Jackson's nomination meant that, for the first time in the modern history of Supreme Court confirmations, she needed an additional procedural step – known as a discharge petition – to get on the Senate floor.

Jackson is also expected to be confirmed to the Supreme Court this week with bipartisan support. GOP senators Collins, Romney and Murkowski announced that they will vote in favor to confirm her to fill Breyer's upcoming vacancy.

Supreme Court confirmations are only getting more political: The fact that Jackson will replace a fellow Democratic appointee on the high court and won’t meaningfully change its lean did not make her proceedings any less of a partisan brawl. 

As Republicans blamed Democrats Monday for hostility shown several decades ago towards GOP-supported contenders for the Supreme Court, they also argued that no committee Democrat voted for any of former President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominees.

For Democrats, Republicans changed the game with their refusal to give Obama-nominee Merrick Garland a hearing in 2016. Sen. Lindsey Graham said Monday that if Republicans had controlled the Senate, they would not have given Jackson a hearing either.

A delay shows how fragile the path is for Senate Democrats: The committee had to take a multi-hour break before voting on Jackson because a Democratic member’s arrival to DC was delayed.

Sen. Alex Padilla’s flight issues were a reminder why having only 50 votes in the Senate presents all sorts of risks to President Joe Biden’s ability to put a justice on a court. It also explains why some on the left were so aggressive in their calls for Justice Stephen Breyer to retire.

Republicans defended the harsh tone they took with Jackson: Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Dick Durbin said that most of the Republicans treated Jackson fairly but that a few of the GOP members went over the line in their “baseless” attacks on her.

That prompted a rebuke by Sen. Marsha Blackburn, who said that "questions are not attacks" and that it would be a "dereliction of duty to our constituents not to ask tough questions." Durbin stood by his earlier assessments. "I never named a name, so if anybody took it personally, that's their decision," he said.

For Democrats, the GOP hostility was just another hurdle the ground-breaking judge would have to overcome: As he decried the “disrespectful” rhetoric directed at Jackson, Sen. Cory Booker equated the experience she has gone through to the stories he’s heard from people – and particularly Black woman – about "having to endure the absurdities of disrespect that we saw Jackson endure.

“How can they disrespect a person like her, who has done everything right in her life and in her journey?” Booker said, as he ticked off some of Jackson’s credentials. “How qualified do you have to be, double-Harvard? How qualified do you have to be, clerking at all levels of the federal judiciary? How qualified do you have to be, three times confirmed by the Senate in a bipartisan manner?"

CNN's Alex Rogers contributed reporting to this post.

7:09 p.m. ET, April 4, 2022

Senate votes in favor of a motion to proceed with Judge Jackson's nomination

Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on March 23.
Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on March 23. (Alex Brandon/AP)

A motion to proceed with the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson passed with 53-47 vote. 51 votes were needed for the motion to succeed.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will now move to break a GOP filibuster of Jackson leading to a final vote confirmation vote either Thursday or Friday. 

Schumer made a formal move to discharge the nomination of Jackson from the Senate Judiciary Committee after it deadlocked in a 11-11 vote.

Every Democratic senator and three Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — then voted in support of Jackson.

6:43 p.m. ET, April 4, 2022

GOP Sen. Mitt Romney will support Jackson's confirmation

From CNN's Alex Rogers

Sen. Mitt Romney, right, meets with Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson on Capitol Hill on March 29 in Washington, DC.
Sen. Mitt Romney, right, meets with Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson on Capitol Hill on March 29 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Utah GOP Sen. Mitt Romney announced on Twitter that he intends to vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

“I intend to vote in support of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court,” tweeted Romney.

“After reviewing Judge Jackson’s record and testimony, I have concluded that she is a well-qualified jurist and a person of honor. While I do not expect to agree with every decision she may make on the Court, I believe that she more than meets the standard of excellence and integrity. I congratulate Judge Jackson on her expected confirmation and look forward to her continued service to our nation.” 

Here's his full tweet:

6:35 p.m. ET, April 4, 2022

GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski to vote for Jackson

From CNN's Dan Berman

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks at the US Capitol on March 29 in Washington, DC.
Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks at the US Capitol on March 29 in Washington, DC. (Greg Nash/Pool/Getty Images)

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski announced she will support Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation to the Supreme Court this week.

Murkowski's decision has been eagerly anticipated as she's up for re-election this year and is already facing heavy political pressure having voted against former President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial last year.

But the senator said she's confident in Jackson's ability and qualifications:

My support rests on Judge Jackson’s qualifications, which no one questions; her demonstrated judicial independence; her demeanor and temperament; and the important perspective she would bring to the court as a replacement for Justice Breyer.

5:01 p.m. ET, April 4, 2022

Schumer moves to discharge Judge Jackson's nomination, setting up first procedural vote tonight

From CNN's Manu Raju, Kristin Wilson and Ted Barrett

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at the Capitol in Washington on March 29.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at the Capitol in Washington on March 29. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

On the Senate the floor, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made a formal move to discharge the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson from the Senate Judiciary Committee after it deadlocked in a 11-11 vote.

There are up to four hours of debate but the vote is expected between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. ET.

51 votes are needed for the motion to succeed.

After she is discharged, Schumer will move to break a GOP filibuster of Jackson leading to a final vote confirmation vote either Thursday or Friday. 

Schumer reiterated on the floor Monday that the Senate will confirm Judge Jackson to the Supreme Court by the end of the week and will take a series of procedural votes in the coming days to set up that final vote.

“I hope both sides can work together to advance her all but certain confirmation through the Senate without delay,” Schumer said. 

Schumer called Jackson highly qualified and said “it’s not easy being thrown suddenly and abruptly into the national spotlight” and complained Republican “objections are entirely unserious.”

5:34 p.m. ET, April 4, 2022

Senate Judiciary committee votes on party lines — 11-11 — on Jackson's nomination

From CNN's Alex Rogers, Lauren Fox and Morgan Rimmer 

(Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
(Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The Senate Judiciary Committee reconvened and voted on whether to move forward with President Biden's Supreme Court justice pick, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

The committee voted along party lines, 11-11, on the nomination of Jackson, the first step in a series Democrats will take to confirm her by the end of the week.

What will happen next: After the committee vote, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will move to discharge the nomination of Judge Jackson and send it to the Senate floor.

The discharge vote on the floor could happen around 5:30-6:30 p.m. ET, according to GOP Sen. John Thune’s office.

It takes 51 votes to discharge the deadlocked nomination. We will get a sense then how Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney plan to vote on Jackson.

Senate Republican and Democratic leaders agree that Jackson is a well-qualified nominee, but almost all GOP senators are expected to oppose her.

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.

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

CNN's Manu Raju contributed reporting to this post.

1:43 p.m. ET, April 4, 2022

The vote on Jackson is expected to be tight. Here’s how it would stack up against previous confirmations

From CNN's Sam Woodward

(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote to advance Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the full chamber is expected to be a 11-11 split along party lines. Despite the deadlock, there are still ways that Senate Democrats can put her nomination forward for a full vote in the coming days. 

So far, only one Republican, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, has said she would support Jackson, likely setting up the type of tight vote tally for her confirmation that has become more routine as nomination battles have grown increasingly contentious. 

In the past, nominees have sailed to confirmation without a single Nay vote, as Justices Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia did. Or in the case of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, just three Nays. 

Justice Stephen Breyer — whose seat Jackson is nominated to fill -- was confirmed 87-9 in 1994 during the Clinton administration. And in 2005, Chief Justice John Roberts, who was nominated by President George W. Bush, was confirmed with a vote of 78-22 under a Republican-controlled Senate.

For the nine sitting justices, Breyer and Roberts are the only two who were confirmed with a margin of over 50 votes in their favor, receiving strong support from members of both parties. Justice Sonia Sotomayor (68-31) and Justice Elena Kagan (63-37) were both easily confirmed during the Obama administration.

In 2018, Justice Brett Kavanaugh barely scraped by with a vote of 50-48 following his contentious confirmation hearings when he faced accusations of sexual assault by a former classmate. And Justice Clarence Thomas, whose hearings featuring Anita Hill shocked the nation, was confirmed by a 52-48 tally.

Justices Samuel Alito (58-42), Neil Gorsuch (54-45) and Amy Coney Barrett (52-48) were all nominated by a Republican president and confirmed by a Republican-controlled Senate.

3:38 p.m. ET, April 4, 2022

The top reasons Republicans are citing for not supporting Jackson's confirmation 

From CNN's Tierney Sneed

GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have been citing similar reasons Monday for voting against Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation. 

Republicans on the panel are expected to be united in their opposition of the nominee when they vote later Monday.

Here's a look at some of the points Republicans have been raising in their remarks:

Lack of judicial philosophy: Jackson’s refusal to align herself with any specific judicial philosophy – like the originalist or textualism – has been cited by several Republicans.  

“We don't expect a nominee to say that they will agree with a specific justice 100% of the time, but it's not asking too much that a nominee be able to explain the justice’s approach to the law and where they might differ,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, said. 

Democrats have countered that some GOP appointees for the high court, like Chief Justice John Roberts, also did not identify themselves as following a particular judicial philosophy. 

Supposedly soft on crime: Republicans on Monday attacked Jackson for being “lenient” towards criminal offenders in her sentencing, with some committee members continuing their focus on her record on child pornography cases. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, for instance touted charts that he said showed that her average sentence in certain categories of these cases was below the national average, while Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, discussed the “policy disagreements” Jackson has shown with what the sentencing guidelines instruct doing in those cases.

Democrats pushed back on those complaints by arguing that Republicans have supported GOP appointed judges who exhibited similar sentencing tendencies towards those types of defendants. They also touted the endorsements Jackson has received from a variety of law enforcement and victims’ rights groups.   

"To say she's an extremist on crime belies the fact that she has law enforcement group after law enforcement group supporting her,” Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, said. 

A Trump era immigration ruling: As Republicans labeled Jackson a “radical” and an “activist” judge, they’ve zeroed in one decision in particular she issued as a district court judge, when she ruled against a Trump-era immigration policy that expanded the categories of noncitizens that may be subjected to expedited deportation procedures. Her decision was overturned on appeal. 

"The Make the Road case demonstrated her willingness to put left wing policy above the law,” Cruz said, referring the the immigration case. 

2:14 p.m. ET, April 4, 2022

The Senate Judiciary Committee is in a recess and will reconvene later today to vote on Jackson, chair says 

From CNN's Lauren Fox and Morgan Rimmer 

The Senate Judiciary Committee is now in recess and is expected to return later today to vote on whether to advance the nomination of Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Sen. Dick Durbin, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, just confirmed publicly as members were wrapping up their remarks on Judge Jackson that Sen. Alex Padilla will be delayed.

The chairman says the committee will reconvene when Padilla lands later this afternoon. 

“I believe that Senator Padilla will be back in time this afternoon for us to consider this nomination and a record vote and the 6 other nominees who are pending before the committee,” Durbin told the committee, adding, “I know it troubles him, it pains him not to be here.”

He said that Padilla and his entire family were taking the red eye last night when there was a medical emergency onboard and they were diverted back to Los Angeles.

He said there was a time when senators would often engage in paired voting to cover a delay like this, but he said he understands that this is an important vote for everyone. 

“There was a time when pairing for a vote was common; where someone, two senators with opposite positions on a vote would agree that neither one of them was gonna vote, so that the outcome would not be affected,” Durbin said.

He added, “We’re in a different position because this is not a run of the mill ordinary vote, this is an important one that everyone here has thought through very seriously, and we should take very seriously.” 

More on today's vote: The committee is made up of 11 members of each party, and every Republican on the committee is expected to vote against advancing Jackson’s nomination. However, Senate Democrats are still expected to put her nomination to a full confirmation vote on the floor in the coming days.