2 more GOP senators to back Judge Jackson for Supreme Court, nearly assuring confirmation

Free Press wire report | 4/7/2022, 11 p.m.
Republican U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah say they will vote to confirm Judge Ketanji …
Judge Brown


Republican U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah say they will vote to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s historic elevation to the U.S. Supreme Court, giving President Biden’s nominee a burst of bipartisan support and all but assuring she’ll become the first Black female justice in the court’s 232-year history.

The senators announced their decisions Monday night ahead of a procedural vote to advance the nomination and as Democrats pressed to confirm Judge Jackson by the week’s end. The vote by the full Senate is scheduled for Thursday, April 7. GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine announced last week that she would back Judge Jackson, noting her “stellar qualifications” as a federal judge, public defender and member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

All three Republicans said they did not expect to agree with all of Judge Jackson’s decisions, but they found her extremely well qualified. Sen. Romney said Judge Jackson “more than meets the standard of excellence and integrity.” Sen. Murkowski said Judge Jackson will “bring to the Supreme Court a range of experience from the courtroom that few can match given her background in litigation.”

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat who represents Virginia, spoke briefly on the Senate floor Wednesday morning about why he will vote to confirm Judge Jackson.

Earlier this week, Democratic Sen. Mark R. Warner, Virginia’s senior senator, met with Judge Jackson and expressed his intent to support her confirmation.

With three Republicans supporting her in the 50-50 split Senate, Judge Jackson is on a glide path to confirmation and on the brink of making history as the third Black justice and only the sixth woman in the court’s history. Beyond the historic element, Democrats have cited her deep experience in nine years on the federal bench and the chance for her to become the first former public defender on the court.

President Biden nominated Judge Jackson to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, who will step down after the court’s session ends this summer. The president has sought bipartisan backing for his pick, making repeated calls to senators and inviting Republicans to the White House. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that administration officials would work the phones until the last minute to maximize support.

“Judge Jackson will bring extraordinary qualifications, deep experience and intellect, and a rigorous judicial record to the Supreme Court,” President Biden tweeted earlier Monday. “She deserves to be confirmed as the next justice.”

The Senate’s 53-47 vote Monday evening was to “discharge” Judge Jackson’s nomination from the Senate Judiciary Committee after the panel deadlocked, 11-11, on whether to send the nomination to the Senate floor.

The committee vote, split along party lines, was the first deadlock on a U.S. Supreme Court nomination in three decades.

Derrick Johnson, president and chief executive officer of the national NAACP, expressed disappointment with the committee tie, even as he noted that Judge Jackson had cleared an important hurdle. He said “history will be watching” during the full Senate vote later this week.

The Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, said he opposed Judge Jackson’s nomination because “she and I have fundamental different views on the role of judges and the role that they should play in our system of government.”

The committee hadn’t deadlocked since 1991, when President Biden was chairman and a motion to send the nomination of current Justice Clarence Thomas to the floor with a “favorable” recommendation failed on a 7-7 vote. The committee then voted to send the nomination to the floor without a recommendation, meaning it could still be brought up for a vote.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky set the tone for most of his party last week when he said he “cannot and will not” support Judge Jackson, citing GOP concerns raised in hearings about her sentencing record and her backing from liberal advocacy groups.

Republicans on the Judiciary panel continued their push Monday to paint Judge Jackson as soft on crime, defending their repeated questions about her sentencing on sex crimes.

“Questions are not attacks,” said Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, one of several GOP senators on the panel who hammered the point in the hearings two weeks ago.

Judge Jackson pushed back on the GOP narrative during the committee hearings, 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. And on Monday they criticized their GOP counterparts’ questioning.

“You could try and create a straw man here, but it does not hold,” said Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey and member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The questioning was filled with “absurdities of disrespect,” Sen. Booker said.

He said he will “rejoice” when Judge Jackson is confirmed.