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Susan Collins to support Ketanji Brown Jackson for the Supreme Court, providing key Republican vote

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Washington — Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine will vote to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, she announced Wednesday, providing President Biden's historic nominee with at least one GOP vote toward her likely confirmation.

"After reviewing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's extensive record, watching much of her hearing testimony, and meeting with her twice in person, I have concluded that she possesses the experience, qualifications, and integrity to serve as an associate justice on the Supreme Court," Collins said in a statement. "I will, therefore, vote to confirm her to this position. "

Collins' decision to support Jackson's nomination to the Supreme Court comes after the two met privately for a second time Tuesday. The Maine senator said the two had a "good" meeting and told reporters Jackson clarified some outstanding issues.

Collins and Jackson met for the first time at the beginning of March for more than 90 minutes. The New York Times first reported Collins would vote to confirm Jackson, who will be the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court if confirmed.

The White House has been hoping Jackson's nomination would clear the Senate with bipartisan backing, and Collins' support ensures this will happen. Two other GOP senators who are seen as possibly voting to confirm Jackson, Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have not yet said whether they intend to support the confirmation.

Romney met with Jackson on Tuesday and said he will likely reveal his decision when the Senate holds its final vote. Murkowski, one of three Republicans who backed Jackson's nomination to the federal appeals court in Washington, had a one-on-one meeting with the judge earlier this month.

Jackson appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week for a grueling two days of questions from the panel's 22 Democratic and Republican members. She has continued to meet with senators ahead of the committee's vote on whether to advance her nomination to the Senate floor, which is set for Monday.

Supreme Court Nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson Meets Senators Ahead Of Confirmation Hearing
Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson meets with Sen. Susan Collins of Maine on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, March 8, 2022. Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Democratic leaders are aiming to hold the final vote on Jackson's confirmation before the Senate leaves town for a two-week recess April 8.

Mr. Biden announced Jackson as his nominee to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer at the end of February. A judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Jackson made history as the first Black woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court, and will do so again if the Senate approves her nomination.

During her confirmation hearings, which spanned a total of four days, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee zeroed in on Jackson's sentencing record in child pornography cases while she was a judge on the federal district court in Washington and claimed she imposed lenient sentences that were well below federal guidelines.

Others GOP senators criticized Jackson for declining to place a label on her judicial philosophy, as well as for the clients she represented as a federal public defender and for refusing to take a position on adding seats to the Supreme Court during her hearings.

Collins said she discussed with Jackson "in depth" several issues raised during her confirmation hearings.

"Sometimes I agreed with her; sometimes I did not. And just as I have disagreed with some of her decisions to date, I have no doubt that, if Judge Jackson is confirmed, I will not agree with every vote that she casts as a justice," she said in her statement. "That alone, however, is not disqualifying."

Collins has across her tenure in the Senate voted to confirm Supreme Court nominees put forth by Republican and Democratic presidents, including Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, nominated by former President Donald Trump, and Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, nominated by former President Barack Obama.

She did not, however, support Justice Amy Coney Barrett, citing the close proximity of the confirmation vote to the 2020 presidential election.

In her statement, Collins lamented the changing nature of Supreme Court confirmation fights, which have become bitterly partisan in recent years, and said the role of the Senate when examining nominees to the high court is "not to assess whether a nominee reflects the ideology of an individual senator or would rule exactly as an individual senator would want."

"No matter where you fall on the ideological spectrum, anyone who has watched several of the last Supreme Court confirmation hearings would reach the conclusion that the process is broken," she said. "Part of the reason is that, in recent years, the process has increasingly moved away from what I believe to be appropriate for evaluating a Supreme Court nominee."

With Democrats controlling 50 seats in the Senate, Jackson does not need Republican support to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, as Vice President Kamala Harris would cast a tie-breaking vote. But Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, told reporters earlier this month he has been working to persuade Republicans to back her, arguing "this is a moment in the history of the United States, and I always want to try to be on the right side of history."

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