Supreme Court Nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson Clears Senate Committee

Biden's nominee is one step closer to becoming the first Black woman on the nation's highest court.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Monday to send Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the full Senate, moving her one step closer to becoming the first Black woman and first former public defender on the nation’s highest court.

“This is the fourth time the committee has voted on Judge Jackson in some capacity, a reflection of her extraordinary legal career,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the chair of the committee, said in opening remarks. “It’s the first time that the committee has had the opportunity to advance the nomination of a Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court.”

“This is a historic moment for the committee and for America,” he added.

The panel advanced Jackson’s nomination on a 11-11 vote, with every Republican voting no. Those GOP members are Sens. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Lee (Utah), Ted Cruz (Texas), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), John Kennedy (La.), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.).

The tie vote meant Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) had to later force her nomination out of the committee via a procedural step known as a discharge petition. Schumer teed up that vote Monday night; the motion to discharge Jackson from the committee passed, 53-47.

“This procedural step should be entirely unnecessary,” Schumer said on the Senate floor just before the vote. “There is no question — no question — that Judge Jackson deserves a strong bipartisan vote in committee. But sadly, despite the judge’s qualifications, not a single Republican on the committee voted to report her out of committee.”

He added, “The end result will remain unchanged: Judge Jackson ultimately has enough support to get confirmed on a bipartisan basis, and the Senate is going to keep working until this nomination is complete.”

Three Republicans voted with Democrats to release Jackson’s nomination from the committee: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Mitt Romney (Utah). They are the only GOP senators who have said they will vote to confirm Jackson.

The Senate has a couple more procedural steps to clear this week, but Jackson is on track to be confirmed late Thursday.

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson is inching closer to becoming the first Black woman on the high court.
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson is inching closer to becoming the first Black woman on the high court.
Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

During Monday’s committee hearing, Republicans recycled the same bad-faith attacks they made during Jackson’s confirmation hearing last month.

They falsely accused her of not being tough on child sex offenders as a federal judge, even though they know her record is well within the mainstream. Cotton falsely claimed that Jackson likes to help terrorists. Cruz accused Democrats of treating Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh poorly during his confirmation hearing by asking him about his high school yearbooks, while “not a single Republican senator asked [Jackson] about her high school yearbook.” He failed to mention that Kavanaugh, unlike Jackson, was credibly accused of sexual assault in high school.

Several Republicans also accused Democrats of hypocrisy for supporting Jackson but opposing a conservative Black female judicial nominee in the early 2000s, Janice Rogers Brown, even though they know Democrats opposed her because of her ideological opposition to the social safety net, environmental protections and reproductive rights.

The reality is that several GOP senators on the committee ― Cruz, Hawley and Cotton ― are potential 2024 presidential contenders and have been using Judiciary Committee hearings as a platform for falsely attacking Biden’s judicial nominees as “soft on crime.” They’ve been doing it all year, and their criticism of Jackson is simply getting more attention because hers is a higher-profile nomination.

It was just June when Jackson was confirmed to her current seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, a court considered second only to the Supreme Court. Three Republicans voted to confirm her to that seat: Collins, Murkowski and Graham.

Graham has said he’s a “no” vote this time around, despite voting for Jackson for her current court seat, her former seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and for the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

Why is he voting against Jackson now?

He reportedly has a case of sour grapes over Biden not picking the Supreme Court nominee he wanted.

This story has been updated to reflect the Senate’s vote to discharge Jackson’s nomination from the Judiciary Committee.

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