WASHINGTON — Ketanji Brown Jackson will make history by becoming the first Black woman to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, after Democratic and Republican senators voted Thursday to confirm her to the lifetime appointment.
The 53-47 vote comes just six weeks after President Joe Biden announced his nomination of Jackson from the White House, fulfilling a promise he first made on the campaign trail.
Biden said at the time: “I believe it’s time that we have a Court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation with a nominee of qualifications, and that will inspire all young people to believe that they can one day serve their country at the highest level.”
According to the White House, Jackson joined Biden and other senior staff in the Roosevelt Room to watch the vote results.
The momentous nature of Jackson’s confirmation was visible throughout the Senate chamber. Senators stayed at their desks on the floor for much of the vote and dozens of U.S. House members, including the Congressional Black Caucus, gathered to watch.
Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the Senate vote even though she wasn’t needed to break a tie, since Jackson won over the support of three Republicans: Maine’s Susan Collins, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Utah’s Mitt Romney.
After Harris called the vote, the Senate chamber erupted into a standing ovation. While most of the Republican senators filed out of the Senate, Democratic lawmakers cheered as staff packing the benches around the Senate floor and most of the seats in the gallery clapped.
Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock said before the vote that “Ketanji Brown Jackson’s improbable journey to the nation’s highest court is a reflection of our own journey through fits and starts toward the nation’s highest ideals.”
“She embodies the arc of our history,” Warnock continued. “She is America at its best. That I believe in my heart after meeting with her in my office, talking to folks who I trust who know her and hearing her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
Iowa GOP Sen. Charles Grassley said he would vote against Jackson, in part, because of her “lenient approach to criminal law and sentencing” and “judicial activism.”
“Her record clearly shows she does not believe in or act within the limited and proper role of a judge, so I will vote against her confirmation,” said Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which split 11-11 on her nomination.
The three Republicans who backed Jackson on the floor said she was well qualified to become an associate justice, though Collins and Murkowski added their support for her was also meant to reject how partisan the Supreme Court confirmation process has become.
“In my view, the role the Constitution clearly assigns to the Senate is to examine the experience, qualifications, and integrity of the nominee,” Collins said in a statement. “It is not to assess whether a nominee reflects the ideology of an individual Senator or would rule exactly as an individual Senator would want.”
Jackson will be sworn in later this year to fill Associate Justice Stephen Breyer’s seat after he retires this summer. She will not change the 6-3 conservative tilt of the court.
Hawley and Blackburn questioning
The Thursday vote followed a particularly grueling confirmation process for Jackson in the Judiciary Committee.
Numerous Republican senators, including Missouri’s Josh Hawley and Tennessee’s Marsha Blackburn, grilled Jackson during her first and second days of questioning during the four-day confirmation hearing.
Republicans brought up numerous concerns with Jackson, including her time as a federal public defender and how she sentenced some of the cases that came before her when she was a U.S. district court judge.
Hawley spent nearly all of his time questioning Jackson on seven cases in which she sentenced people convicted of possession of child pornography, alleging that she should have required more prison time.
Blackburn also focused on those cases, but asked additional questions about how Jackson would define a woman and abortion.
Democrats rebuked some of the Republican questioning, saying data proved Jackson’s sentencing in child pornography cases was in line with the vast majority of other judges and that trying to imply she was “soft on crime” was political.
“The overwhelming majority of Senators on both sides I thought were asking appropriate questions and positive in their approach and respectful of the nominee before us,” Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said during the second day of questioning. “But for many senators, yesterday was an opportunity to showcase talking points for the November election.”
From Miami to the high court
Jackson’s path to the U.S. Supreme Court has been decades in the making.
Jackson, who was born in Washington, D.C., but grew up in Miami, testified at her confirmation hearing that one of her earliest memories was watching her father study law.
“My very earliest memories are of watching my father study. He had his stack of law books on the kitchen table while I sat across from him with my stack of coloring books,”
Jackson said last month on the first day of her confirmation hearing.
Jackson went on to graduate magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1992 and Harvard Law School cum laude in 1996.
She later clerked for the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, the United States Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit and for Breyer.
Jackson worked in private practice before joining the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2003. She became a federal public defender in 2005 before being confirmed as a U.S. district court judge in 2007.
The U.S. Senate voted on Jackson just last year, confirming her 53-44 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham joined Collins and Murkowski in backing her for that role.
Jackson received dozens of endorsements for her nomination to the Supreme Court, including from the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the National Education Association.
The American Bar Association rated Jackson’s as “highly qualified.”
Wrapping up the Senate floor debate on Thursday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, said Jackson becoming an associate justice would take a “bold and important step on the well trodden path to fulfilling our country’s founding promise.”
“This is a great moment for Judge Jackson, but it is even a greater moment for America as we rise to a more perfect union,” Schumer said.
–Jennifer Shutt, Florida Phoenix
An African American Woman on the highest court in the country. Never thought it would happen. An African American woman as Vice President. I guess my grandparents dreamed it would happen now it is reality. I hope they will do the job. God give them strength to do their job. I think this will open doors for other people of color especially African American Women.
Congratulations, Good Luck. May you have a long-esteemed Seat on the SCOTUS
With both judicial and lived experience, there couldn’t have been a more qualified nominee. America wins today.
Every time that one barrier comes down. Insecure Conservatives throw another one up. Still, it’s nice to see a nominee who hasn’t been accused of some form of sexual assault/harassment or isn’t rated as unfit by her peers. No wonder MAGAts hate her so much. She’s scandal free (and intelligent).
I want to thank Republican Mitt Romney, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski.
Jackson1955: Here, here! Democrats tend to shoot themselves in the foot on a regular basis, but the Republicans appear to be hobbling right past them. So now what? Republicans don’t like Public Defenders? The Republicans have made the last two nomination hearings look like a circus sideshow. They even refused to hear a third one, what was their reason Garland wasn’t qualified? It’s all about them and their upcoming elections. Judge Jackson is qualified, and didn’t throw a baby tantrum like Kavanaugh did. So many people walk around with one eye shut all the time.
It’s too nice outside today, I gotta go.
Jefferson Thomas says
Selected because of her Gender and Race………NOT for her Intelligence or her knowledge of the Constitution.
WONDERFUL! Absolutely Wonderful!
A “positive” historical moment for a change. . . what a concept! Thank goodness the complete “insanity” of Q anon abhorrent conspiracy theories and lies does not “YET” infect the “vast” majority of the Republican members of congress. . . the brain infection is spreading rapidly though.
During the confirmation hearings, some Republican congressional members clearly showed their fear and hate driven culture war battle stance by pontificating and scoring “one liners” for far right winged media outlets, and that “crazed” base, insinuating that Democrats are pedophiles and groomers. . . instead of being respectful enough to ask “reasonable” questions of the judge.
You can just imagine how that “circus” of a process looked to leaders of other countries. Such division only serves to weaken our nation, especially coming from elected representatives.
Don’t even start with the Kavanaugh hearings. . . there were at least THREE women with “credible” accusations of sexual abuse against him. They were never fully investigated. I’ve posted them twice before. I watched those hearings. The only one who was really over the top and out of line was Kavanaugh himself. . . with his out right “bullying” tirade. trump and the Republican Senate majority (along with horrific COWARD, and Republican in sheep’s clothing, Joe Manchin) forced Kavanaugh on us.
May Judge Jackson light the way to true “DEMOCRATIC JUSTICE” for many year to come !
The most qualified person, compared to the last two, for the position and our Senators couldn’t Vote yes. Listened to the roll call and I thought Rubio might just have a backbone finally but no, just like Senator Dick Scott and the rest of the GOP except for three real Republicans.
I know this will bring out the haters but here go’s…. how do we know she’s a woman when SHE couldn’t say what a woman is ?????
From what I have read, she seems well qualified for the roll. Too bad all anyone can talk about is her race and sex.