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Senate moves to full vote on Jackson's nomination as two more Republicans announce support

Jackson moves closer to Supreme Court
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson a step closer to Supreme Court confirmation 05:30

Washington — The Senate on Monday voted to bring Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's Supreme Court nomination to the floor for a final vote, clearing a procedural hurdle after the Judiciary Committee deadlocked earlier in the day on advancing her nomination.

Jackson, a judge on the federal appeals court in Washington, will likely be narrowly confirmed by the full Senate by the end of the week. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine announced last week she will support Jackson's nomination, and Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska followed suit on Monday, saying they would support Jackson. 

The support from the three GOP senators ensures Jackson will become the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court.

"After reviewing Judge Jackson's record and testimony, I have concluded that she is a well-qualified jurist and a person of honor," Romney said. "While I do not expect to agree with every decision she may make on the court, I believe that she more than meets the standard of excellence and integrity."

The motion to discharge Jackson's nomination out of committee passed by a vote of 53 to 47 in the full Senate, after the Judiciary Committee split along party lines. Three Republicans, Collins, Murkowski and Romney, joined with Democrats on the motion.

Senate Confirmation Hearing For Supreme Court Nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson
Ketanji Brown Jackson, nominee for associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, departs a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., on March 23, 2022. Julia Nikhinson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

"Let's be clear: Despite Republican opposition, Judge Jackson has enough votes to get confirmed to the Supreme Court on a bipartisan basis," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday ahead of the vote by the full Senate to move the nomination forward. "The Senate is going to keep working until she is confirmed."

The Judiciary Committee's 11-11 vote demonstrated the increasing partisan polarization that has plagued recent Supreme Court confirmations, with none of the Judiciary panel's Republican members casting a vote in favor of Jackson's nomination even as they extolled her credentials and qualifications. The party-line vote took place after the panel was forced to recess for several hours as it waited for Sen. Alex Padilla, a Democrat from California, to arrive after experiencing flight issues.

"Rather than simply another Justice Breyer, she will be the one and only Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, and Justice Jackson will bring to the Supreme Court the highest level of skill, integrity, civility and grace,"  Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in remarks opening the meeting.

Durbin said that in the course of the Judiciary panel's review of Jackson's record and experience, it became clear she has "impeccable qualifications." He called the vote on her nomination "nothing less than making history."

Still, during remarks in the run-up to the committee's vote, Republicans again raised their criticisms of what they said is Jackson's pattern of imposing lenient sentences on offenders in child pornography cases. Some GOP senators also took issue with her refusal to label her judicial philosophy, which Jackson described during her confirmation hearings last month as a multi-step methodology in approaching cases.

"We need confidence that judges will interpret the law as they are written. Judge Jackson's reinterpretation of the law I've helped write doesn't give me that confidence," said Sen. Chuck Grasssley of Iowa, the top Republican on the committee.

Democrats, meanwhile, hailed Jackson for both her demeanor during the bruising question-and-answer sessions, which spanned nearly 24 hours, and qualifications to serve on the Supreme Court. Many also noted the historic nature of her nomination and the barrier she is poised to shatter if approved by the full Senate.

"What a reaffirming signal it would send to the American people if we break free from the politics of the moment and unite behind Judge Jackson. What a refreshing departure it'd be from the tired tribalism that has infected virtually every corner of our political system," Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, said. "Judge Jackson's given me every reason to be hopeful not only for our court, but for our country."

Senate Democratic leaders are aiming to confirm Jackson before the upper chamber leaves Friday for a two-week recess, and while she can win approval with just Democratic support, the White House has been hoping Jackson will be confirmed with bipartisan support.

Mr. Biden nominated Jackson in late February after Justice Stephen Breyer announced he will retire from the high court at the end of its term this summer. With his pick of Jackson, Mr. Biden fulfilled a pledge he made during the 2020 presidential campaign to name the first Black woman to the Supreme Court.

If confirmed, Jackson's appointment will not change the ideological makeup of the court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority. But at 51 years old, she would be the second-youngest member of the Supreme Court and could serve for decades. She will also diversify the professional experience represented on the high court, having worked as an assistant federal public defender — Jackson would be the first justice to have held such a role — and served on the federal trial court in Washington, D.C.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor is the only current member of the Supreme Court to have served on a U.S. district court.

The vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee, coupled with the Senate's procedural vote, marks another hurdle in the confirmation process. In addition to appearing before the 22-member panel for two consecutive days of questioning, Jackson answered scores of written questions from the committee members. 

While Durbin largely praised senators on the committee for their treatment of Jackson during her confirmation hearings, he lambasted some Republican members, saying they leveled "baseless attacks" on her, accused her of "vile things in front of her" family and "impugned her motives."

"Judge Jackson is a better person than me. She stayed calm and collected, she showed dignity, grace and poise," Durbin said. "If there is one positive to take away from these attacks on her, it is that the nation saw the temperament of a good, strong person, ready to serve on the highest court in the land."

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