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.