The Senate on Thursday voted to confirm President Biden’s pick to replace the retiring Justice Stephen Breyer. The 53-47 vote went as expected, with all 50 Democrats voting to confirm Jackson, along with three Republicans: Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Mitt Romney. Collins, Murkowski, and Romney had all announced previously that they intended to vote for Jackson. Jackson will take the bench upon Breyer’s retirement at the conclusion of the court’s summer session.
In a historic move, the Senate has confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's nomination to the Supreme Court. Watch the moment Democrats gave a standing ovation while some GOP members walked out of the chamber. pic.twitter.com/gkUd2dHpL7
— CNN (@CNN) April 7, 2022
Jackson’s confirmation is a huge win for President Biden, who has so far been unable to get key parts of his legislative agenda through Congress despite Democrats holding majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Biden had been pushing hard for Jackson’s confirmation in the weeks and days leading up to the vote. “Judge Jackson will bring extraordinary qualifications, deep experience and intellect, and a rigorous judicial record to the Supreme Court,” he tweeted on Monday. “She deserves to be confirmed as the next Justice.
Jackson qualifications are indeed extraordinary. She’ll become the only justice on the court to have a degree from an Ivy League law school, have clerked for a Supreme Court justice, have served as a public defender, have sat on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, have served as a district judge, and to have served as a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Jackson is also the first Black woman to have been nominated to sit on the Supreme Court, a fact that has rankled Republicans throughout the confirmation process. Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, and other Republican senators have suggested that Biden’s commitment to nominating a Black woman means Jackson isn’t qualified in her own right. They’ve also repeatedly grilled Jackson with ridiculous questions about race. Cruz even asked her at one point if she believes babies can be racist. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), in railing against Jackson’s position on the board of a school that supports anti-racist education, lectured the judge on white privilege in America, suggesting it doesn’t exist.
The GOP’s other attacks on Jackson were no less despicable. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) popularized the idea that Jackson is pedophile sympathizer, a bad-faith claim based on how she strayed from sentencing guidelines on some child pornography cases. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) pointed out earlier this week not only that straying from such guidelines is common, but that Hawley himself has voted to confirm judges who strayed from guidelines in similar cases. The conspiracy theory is so gross that even the conservative National Review wrote about it, describing it as “meritless to the point of demagoguery.” Fox News and conservative media inflated the idea, though, and influential figures like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene are alleging that anyone who supports Jackson is “pro-pedophile.”
Senators also tried to portray Jackson as a terrorist sympathizer, citing her defense in court of Guantanamo Bay detainees. Jackson noted that “federal public defenders don’t get to pick their clients” and that it’s a “core constitutional value” that people have the right to a fair trial, but the attacks persisted. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) even suggested that Jackson may have defended Nazis in court were she to have been around during World War II. “You know the last Judge Jackson left the Supreme Court to go to Nuremberg and prosecute the Nazis,” he said earlier this week, referring to Justice Robert Jackson. “This Judge Jackson may have gone there to defend them.”
Speaking Thursday, Republican Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell congratulated his GOP colleagues for focusing on policy, and — as part of the ongoing GOP revenge tour over Democrats pointing out that Trump Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh was credibly accused of sexual assault — said his party had not “followed Democrats into the gutter.”
The lines of attack may have gotten plenty of airplay on Fox News, but they weren’t enough to unite the party — or the public — in opposition to Jackson. Polling consistently found that around two-thirds of the nation supported Jackson’s confirmation. A Gallup poll released late last month found that she had the most support of any Supreme Court nominee since 1987, when Gallup first started polling on nominee support, except for John Roberts, who beat her by one percentage point.
Jackson’s confirmation means a liberal justice will be locked into the bench for potentially decades, but the court is still skewed heavily toward conservatives. It’s likely going to stay that way for a while, as former President Trump was able to appoint three justices in just four years, giving conservatives a dominating 6-3 majority and paving the way for a potential overturn of Roe v. Wade, as well as other decisions that could run counter to the preferences of the majority of the United States.
Nevertheless, Jackson’s confirmation marks a historic moment for Black Americans — particularly for Black women.