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2 more GOP senators back Jackson; confirmation all but assured

Updated April 4, 2022 - 5:23 pm

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson moved closer to Senate confirmation Monday when the full Senate voted 53-47 to discharge her nomination from the Senate Judiciary Committee, which deadlocked 11-11, setting in motion the procedural steps to her bipartisan confirmation later this week.

President Joe Biden nominated Jackson to fill the vacancy being created by the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer, who announced he would step down after the current term that ends this spring.

“Judge Jackson will bring extraordinary qualifications, deep experience and intellect, and a rigorous judicial record to the Supreme Court,” Biden tweeted early Monday.

“She deserves to be confirmed as the next justice,” he said.

Jackson is the first Black woman nominated to the high court. If confirmed, she would be one of four women on the Supreme Court, as close to gender parity as possible on the nine-person bench, which would be another first for the high court.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the panel was “making history. I’m honored to be part of it.”

Republicans on the panel cited a litany of reasons for voting against the nomination, mostly echoing election-year campaign charges that Jackson, like Biden and Democrats, is soft on crime and would be an activist judge for liberal causes.

The committee’s top Republican, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, said he was opposing 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.”

Meeting with senators

As Senate leaders prepared for her confirmation vote, now assured with three Republican votes, Jackson continued to meet with senators who will vote on her confirmation.

Jackson and Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., met Monday on Capitol Hill for a private conversation.

The nominee smiled as she stood with Rosen for photographs but did not publicly comment on the Senate committee’s consideration of her nomination.

Rosen told reporters following the meeting that she would vote to confirm Jackson.

“She’s so qualified. You saw her demeanor at the hearing. She’s a wife, she’s a mom. She’s been confirmed multiple times here in the Senate. I think she will make a great associate justice,” Rosen said.

Rosen said she talked with Jackson about Nevada, its ethnic and economic diversity, as well as women’s reproductive health and civil rights.

Despite the tone of Senate committee questioning, Rosen said Jackson drew her strength from her family.

“I think she feels very, very honored and proud,” Rosen said.

A private sit down between Jackson and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto last week led the Nevada Democrat senior senator to announce that she would vote for the nominee, citing credentials and the historic significance it represents.

The announcement of support, while not unexpected, was symbolic. Cortez Masto is the first Latina elected to the Senate.

A former Nevada attorney general, Cortez Masto also defended Jackson from charges of leniency as a district judge in sentencing.

“It’s been discredited,” Cortez Masto told the Review-Journal.

Divided panel

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said before voting against advancing her nomination that Jackson provided “troubling, troubling answers” to questions about packing the Supreme Court and judicial philosophy.

But Lee acknowledged that her experience as a circuit court jurist, a federal district judge and as a clerk for three judges, including Justice Breyer, was impressive and expansive.

No Republican senator attacked her credentials during the four days of hearings and 24 hours of questioning last month.

Potential GOP presidential contenders characterized Jackson as a radical liberal out of the mainstream.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said that as a Supreme Court justice Jackson would strike down Second Amendment rights, partial birth abortion and U.S. border enforcement and immigration policies.

Jackson coddled pedophiles, rapists and a fentanyl kingpin, said Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., another presidential aspirant. “Judge Jackson habitually sympathized with criminals over victims,” Cotton said.

But judicial experts testified that Jackson’s rulings and sentencing as a district judge were well within the norm of judges nationally.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., dismissed GOP claims as attempts to “make political points” for future campaigns. He said a deadlocked vote on the nomination was further proof of the political polarization that has rendered Congress a dysfunctional branch of government.

“Absurdities of disrespect,” Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said of GOP critics on the committee who badgered Jackson in their questioning.

“That’s what struck a chord,” Booker, himself a presidential aspirant, said of the Republican tactics.

Broken process?

The Supreme Court confirmation process “is broken,” the blame game played in the hearings show that, said Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond School of Law professor and founding faculty of the William S. Boyd School of Law at UNLV.

“Both parties are at fault and share much blame,” Tobias said, “and politicization is bad for the court, the president and the Senate.”

Tobias said Jackson’s confirmation, though, is certain with the Republican votes. Democrats in the 50-50 Senate are united behind the nominee.

Collins, a Republican centrist from Maine, said last week that she plans to vote in favor of the nomination.

On Monday, Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska also announced they would vote for Jackson’s confirmation.

“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,” Romney said in a statement.

Murkowski, along with Collins, supported Jackson in her confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last year.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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