WASHINGTON – Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s historic nomination to be the first Black woman on the Supreme Court moved one step closer Monday afternoon.
The 22-member Senate Judiciary Committee, which is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, voted along party lines for an 11-11 tie, rather than offering a “favorable” or “unfavorable” recommendation.
While the tie vote adds an additional procedural step, it won’t stop Jackson’s nomination from moving to the full Senate for consideration. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., can now set the schedule for a full chamber vote, where Jackson is expected to be confirmed before Congress leaves for Easter recess at the end of the week.
Last week, GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine announced she would back Jackson, ensuring bipartisan support for the nomination. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who frequently breaks from his party, also said he would vote for the nominee.
REPUBLICAN SUPPORT:GOP Sen. Susan Collins will vote for Ketanji Brown Jackson, bipartisan support for historic Supreme Court nominee
KEY DEMOCRAT IN FAVOR:Manchin to vote for Ketanji Brown Jackson, likely ensuring she will be the first Black woman on Supreme Court
As a result, Jackson is all but ensured to be confirmed as the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
The Senate is evenly split between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. If a simple majority of 51 vote for her, Jackson is confirmed. If the Senate deadlocks at 50-50, Vice President Kamala Harris (acting as the Senate president) would break the tie and provide Jackson with the deciding vote.
With Democrats and Collins backing the nomination, Jackson appears to have enough votes to be confirmed without Harris’ help.
Still, Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., cautioned reporters last week that the fight to confirm Jackson isn’t done until the final vote takes place.
“It ain’t over,’’ he said. “Watch any basketball games lately? How many of them went down to the last basket. That’s what we’re facing.”
“Things beyond our control can change this outcome,” he cautioned. If a Democratic senator tests positive for Covid, for example, and is unable to vote, the confirmation could be pushed back.
Monday’s committee vote was delayed by one such factor outside the Senate’s control: a passenger’s medical emergency on Democratic committee member Sen. Alex Padilla’s flight back to Washington from California Sunday night.
The flight was turned around, and Padilla was delayed getting back to DC to vote until Monday afternoon. The committee broke for recess until he was able to make it in person to vote in Jackson’s favor. With a split committee and a split Senate, any outside circumstance can effect the confirmation process.
“We’re living in that world, a 50-50 world where every vote can make the difference as to whether or not she’s going to be confirmed,’’ Durbin said.
Republicans continue to criticize Jackson
Republican committee members resurrected their attacks on Jackson before the vote.
During the hearings, they pressed Jackson on her record sentencing defendants in child pornography cases and as a federal public defender representing detainees at Guantanamo Bay. In at times acrimonious questioning, members also pushed Jackson to explain her views of controversial political issues like court-packing, critical race theory, and transgender rights.
“Her record on crime is out of the mainstream, her record on crime is extreme,” said GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
Cruz, who went to school with Jackson, said “I’ve known Judge Jackson for thirty years, I’ve always liked her personally.” Likewise, GOP Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri couched his attacks on Jackson with praise of her character.
“I can say definitively that I like her, she’s a good person, but I cannot support her,” Hawley said, before leveling attacks on her sentencing decisions in child pornography cases.
“Judge Jackson may be a fine woman, but she has built her career as a far left activist, and that didn’t change when she put on a black robe ten years ago,” said Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Okla., who added that Jackson will “give the benefit to criminals nationwide” and accused of having “a real interest in helping terrorists.”
Others on the committee voiced concern about her judicial philosophy.
“A judge must call balls and strikes and given what I’ve seen and her unwillingness to disclose her judicial philosophy and disavow an expansive view of unenumerated rights, I have concerns that Judge Jackson will be pinch hitting for one team or the other. I will vote no,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of only three Republicans who voted to confirm Jackson to her current position on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, said that the Supreme Court is different, and reiterated that he would not vote for her nomination.
“I’ll vote no, first time I’ve ever voted against any Supreme Court nominee,” Graham said.
Democrats highlight historical vote
Democrats, meanwhile, used their time Monday to reiterate support for Jackson and underscore the historic nature of the vote.
“It’s the first time 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,” Durbin said.
“The history books will be taking notes,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the president pro tempore of the Senate.
Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a close ally of President Biden, compared Jackson to Ruby Bridges, one of the first Black students to integrate a public school after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.
“So too, I found that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson conducted herself in questioning here with her head held high, with a sense of confidence in our constitution, in our democracy, and in the rule of law,” said Coons.
New Jersey Democrat Sen. Cory Booker, one of only three Black senators, quoted poet Maya Angelou during the Monday session. Booker previously brought Jackson to tears during the hearing with an emotional speech about the significance of her nomination.
“You may try to write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lies, you may trod me in the very dirt, but still like dust, I rise,” Booker said Monday. “Rise sister Jackson, rise Judge Jackson, all the way to the highest court in the land.”
Contributing: Deborah Berry