US Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson gains more Republican support ahead of vote

Republican U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney announced Monday night that they would vote to affirm Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s historic elevation to the Supreme Court, giving Presidential nominee Joe Biden a wave of bipartisan support and ensuring that she would become the first black female Justice. Senators from Alaska and Utah announced their decisions ahead of a procedural vote to advance the nomination and as Democrats pressed to confirm Jackson by the end of the week. Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine announced last week that she would support Jackson.

The three Republicans said they didn’t expect to agree with all of Jackson’s decisions, but they found her well qualified. Romney said she “meets more than the standard of excellence and integrity.”

With three Republicans backing her in the 50-50 split Senate, Jackson is on the road to confirmation and set to make history as the third black justice and only the sixth woman in the history of more than 200 years of the court. Beyond the historical element, Democrats cited her deep nine-year experience on the federal bench and her chance to become the first former public defender on the court.

“A corrosive politicization”

Both Collins and Murkowski said they believe the Senate nominating process has become broken as it has become more partisan in recent decades.

Murkowski said his decision was based in part “on my rejection of the corrosive politicization of the Supreme Court nominee review process, which on both sides of the aisle is escalating and detaching from the reality of year after year”.

Sen. Dick Durbin speaks with Sen. Lindsey Graham before resuming a Senate committee meeting to consider Jackon’s Supreme Court nomination on Capitol Hill on Monday. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press)

Biden nominated Jackson to replace outgoing judge Stephen Breyer. Biden sought bipartisan support for his pick, making repeated appeals to senators and inviting Republicans to the White House.

The 53-47 Senate vote on Monday night sought to “release” Jackson’s nomination from the Senate Judiciary Committee after the panel deadlocked, 11-11, on whether to send the nomination to the Senate.

The committee vote, split along party lines, was the first stalemate over a Supreme Court nomination in three decades.

“Justice Jackson will bring to the Supreme Court extraordinary qualifications, profound experience and intelligence, and a rigorous judicial record,” Biden tweeted Monday. “She deserves to be confirmed as the next judge.”

Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin said at Monday’s meeting that Jackson had “the highest standard of skill, integrity, civility and grace.”

“The action of this committee today does nothing less than make history,” said Durbin, an Illinois Democrat. “I am honored to be a part of it. I will strongly and proudly support Justice Jackson’s nomination.”

The committee’s top Republican, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, said he opposed Jackson’s nomination because “she and I have fundamental and different views on the role of judges and the role they should play in our system of government”.

“Descent into Dysfunction”

Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat on the committee, said last week that a tie vote on Jackson would be “a truly unfortunate signal of the continued descent into dysfunction in our confirmation process.”

Republicans on the judiciary panel on Monday continued their efforts to portray Jackson as soft on crime, defending their repeated questions about his sex crimes conviction.

“Questions are not attacks,” said Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, one of several Republican senators on the panel who hammered home the point during hearings two weeks ago.

Jackson pushed back against this account, stating that “nothing could be further from the truth”. Democrats said she agreed with other justices in her rulings and on Monday criticized the questioning of their counterparts.

WATCH | Jackson answers questions during a roller coaster hearing:

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson grilled by senators

Ketanji Brown Jackson, nominated by US President Joe Biden to the Supreme Court, faced her first day of questioning from senators. Jackson, who if confirmed would become the first black woman to join the court, answered questions about her court record and conviction. 2:05

“You could try to create a straw man here, but it doesn’t hold up,” New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker said.

The questioning was filled with “disrespectful nonsense,” said Booker, who is also black, and he said he would “rejoice” when she was confirmed.

Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, expressed his disappointment with the tie, although he noted that Jackson had cleared a significant hurdle. He said “history will follow” in the full Senate vote later this week.

“It’s a stain on the committee that this vote was not unanimous, but rather a tie vote by party,” Johnson said.