The Senate is set to make history on Thursday when they consider the nomination of President Joe Biden's Supreme Court pick Ketanji Brown Jackson on Thursday.
If confirmed, Jackson would become the first Black woman and the first former federal public defender to serve on the Supreme Court – and the president's pick is expected to receive rare bipartisan endorsement.
What You Need To Know
- The Senate is expected to confirm Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson on Thursday, securing her place as the first Black woman on the high court and giving President Joe Biden a bipartisan endorsement for his historic pick
- Three Republican senators have said they will support Jackson, who would replace Justice Stephen Breyer when he retires this summer
- The Senate on Thursday voted 53-47 on a procedural measure to limit debate on Jackson's confirmation, signaling the support she will likely receive for the final vote
- Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black woman to serve in her role in U.S. history, will preside over the Senate for Jackson's confirmation
Three Republican senators – Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah – have said they will support Jackson, who would replace Justice Stephen Breyer when he retires this summer.
While the vote will be far from the overwhelming bipartisan confirmations for Breyer and other justices in decades past, it will still be a significant bipartisan accomplishment for Biden in the narrow 50-50 Senate after Republican senators aggressively worked to paint Jackson as too liberal and soft on crime.
"It will be a joyous day," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday. "Joyous for the Senate, joyous for the Supreme Court, joyous for America."
The Senate on Thursday voted 53-47 on a procedural measure to limit debate on Jackson's confirmation, signaling the support she will likely receive for the final vote.
Adding to the historic nature of Thursday's vote, Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black woman to serve in her role in U.S. history, will preside over the Senate for Jackson's confirmation.
"This afternoon, with the United States Senate poised to make history by voting for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation to the United States Supreme Court, the Vice President will travel to the U.S. Capitol," Harris' communications adviser Herbie Ziskend said in a statement. "The Vice President believes Judge Jackson will be an exceptional Supreme Court Justice, and she looks forward to presiding over the Senate to mark this important moment."
Jackson, a 51 year-old federal appeals court judge, would be just the third Black justice, after Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, and the sixth woman. She would join two other women, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, on the liberal side of a 6-3 conservative court. With Justice Amy Coney Barrett sitting at the other end of the bench, four of the nine justices would be women for the first time in history.
After a bruising hearing in which Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee aggressively interrogated Jackson on her sentencing record, three GOP senators came out and said they would support her. The supportive statements from the trio of Republicans planning to back Jackson all said the same thing — they might not always agree with her, but they found her to be enormously well qualified for the job.
"While I have not and will not agree with all of Judge Jackson’s decisions and opinions, her approach to cases is carefully considered and is generally well-reasoned," Murkowski wrote in a statement earlier this week, adding: "The support she has received from law enforcement agencies around the country is significant and demonstrates the judge is one who brings balance to her decisions."
Romney, who announced his support minutes after Murkowski, expressed a similar sentiment, writing: "While I do not expect to agree with every decision she may make on the Supreme Court, I believe that she more than meets the standard of excellence and integrity."
Collins and Murkowski both decried the increasingly partisan confirmation process, which Collins called "broken" and Murkowski called "corrosive" and "more detached from reality by the year."
Biden, a veteran of a more bipartisan Senate, said from the beginning that he wanted support from both parties for his history-making nominee, and he invited Republicans to the White House as he made his decision. It was an attempted reset from three brutal Supreme Court battles during President Donald Trump's presidency, when Democrats vociferously opposed the nominees, and from the end of President Barack Obama's, when Republicans blocked Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland from getting a vote.
But with the backing of those three Republicans and all 50 Senate Democrats – including moderate Democrat Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona – Jackson's confirmation will sail through the chamber.
"I'm proud to support her nomination to be our next Supreme Court Justice," Sinema said in a statement Thursday. "Judge Jackson brings to the bench a wealth of knowledge, more trial court experience than all other justices combined, a commitment to respect precedent, and a proven independent, pragmatic approach to judicial decisions.
Before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, Jackson said her life was shaped by her parents' experiences with racial segregation and civil rights laws that were enacted a decade before she was born.
With her parents and family sitting behind her, she told the panel that her "path was clearer" than theirs as a Black American. Jackson attended Harvard University, served as a public defender, worked at a private law firm and was appointed as a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission in addition to her nine years on the federal bench.
"I have been a judge for nearly a decade now, and I take that responsibility and my duty to be independent very seriously," Jackson said. "I decide cases from a neutral posture. I evaluate the facts, and I interpret and apply the law to the facts of the case before me, without fear or favor, consistent with my judicial oath."
Once sworn in, Jackson would be the second youngest member of the court after Barrett, 50. She would join a court on which no one is yet 75, the first time that has happened in nearly 30 years.
Jackson's first term will be marked by cases involving race, both in college admissions and voting rights. She has pledged to sit out the court's consideration of Harvard's admissions program since she is a member of its board of overseers. But the court could split off a second case involving a challenge to the University of North Carolina's admissions process, which might allow her to weigh in on the issue.
Republicans spent the hearings interrogating her sentencing record on the federal bench, including the sentences she handed down in child pornography cases, which they argued were too light. Jackson pushed back on the GOP narrative, declaring that "nothing could be further from the truth" and explaining her reasoning in detail. Democrats said she was in line with other judges in her decisions.
The GOP questioning in the Judiciary committee stuck for many Republicans, though, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said in a floor speech Wednesday that Jackson "never got tough once in this area."
Democrats criticized the Republicans' questioning.
"You could try and create a straw man here, but it does not hold," said New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker at the committee's vote earlier this week. The panel deadlocked on the nomination 11-11, but the Senate voted to discharge it from committee and moved ahead with her confirmation.
In an impassioned moment during the hearings last month, Booker, who is also Black, told Jackson that he felt emotional watching her testify. He said he saw "my ancestors and yours" in her image.
"But don't worry, my sister," Booker said. "Don't worry. God has got you. And how do I know that? Because you're here, and I know what it's taken for you to sit in that seat."