First Black woman to serve on the high court approved in 53-47 bipartisan vote
WASHINGTON — Ketanji Brown Jackson will make history by becoming the first Black woman to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, after Democratic and Republican senators voted Thursday to confirm her to the lifetime appointment.
The 53-47 vote comes just six weeks after President Joe Biden announced his nomination of Jackson from the White House, fulfilling a promise he first made on the campaign trail.
“For too long, our government, our courts haven’t looked like America,” Biden said at the time. “I believe it’s time that we have a Court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation with a nominee of qualifications, and that will inspire all young people to believe that they can one day serve their country at the highest level.”
The momentous nature of Jackson’s confirmation was visible throughout the Senate chamber. Senators stayed at their desks on the floor for much of the vote and dozens of U.S. House members, including the Congressional Black Caucus, gathered to watch.
Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the Senate vote even though she wasn’t needed to break a tie, since Jackson won over the support of three Republicans: Maine’s Susan Collins, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Utah’s Mitt Romney.
After Harris called the vote, the Senate chamber erupted into a standing ovation. While most of the Republican senators filed out of the Senate, Democratic lawmakers cheered as staff packing the benches around the Senate floor and most of the seats in the gallery clapped.
Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock said before the vote that “Ketanji Brown Jackson’s improbable journey to the nation’s highest court is a reflection of our own journey through fits and starts toward the nation’s highest ideals.”
“She embodies the arc of our history,” Warnock continued. “She is America at its best. That I believe in my heart after meeting with her in my office, talking to folks who I trust who know her and hearing her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
Iowa GOP Sen. Charles Grassley said he would vote against Jackson, in part, because of her “lenient approach to criminal law and sentencing” and “judicial activism.”
“Her record clearly shows she does not believe in or act within the limited and proper role of a judge, so I will vote against her confirmation,” said Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which split 11-11 on her nomination.
The three Republicans who backed Jackson on the floor said she was well qualified to become an associate justice, though Collins and Murkowski added their support for her was also meant to reject how partisan the Supreme Court confirmation process has become.
“In my view, the role the Constitution clearly assigns to the Senate is to examine the experience, qualifications, and integrity of the nominee,” Collins said in a statement. “It is not to assess whether a nominee reflects the ideology of an individual Senator or would rule exactly as an individual Senator would want.”
Jackson will be sworn in later this year to fill Associate Justice Stephen Breyer’s seat after he retires this summer. She will not change the 6-3 conservative tilt of the court.
Hawley and Blackburn questioning
The Thursday vote followed a particularly grueling confirmation process for Jackson in the Judiciary Committee.
Numerous Republican senators, including Missouri’s Josh Hawley and Tennessee’s Marsha Blackburn, grilled Jackson during her first and second days of questioning during the four-day confirmation hearing. Read more