U.S. Senate committee splits on Jackson nomination to Supreme Court, forcing added vote

By: - April 4, 2022 3:40 pm
Ketanji Brown Jackson

An 11-11 Senate Judiciary Committee vote Monday, with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed, on Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson forces an additional floor vote for President Joe Biden’s pick to succeed retiring Associate Justice Stephen Breyer.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee deadlocked along party lines Monday on a vote that would have advanced Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s historic Supreme Court nomination to the Senate floor.

The 11-11 vote, with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed, forces an additional floor vote for President Joe Biden’s pick to succeed retiring Associate Justice Stephen Breyer.

But the added vote — to come as soon as Monday night— is not expected to stop Jackson from becoming the first Black woman to sit on the high court.

The full Senate, like the Judiciary panel, is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. One GOP senator, Susan Collins of Maine, has said she will vote to confirm Jackson. No Democrats are expected to oppose the nomination.

Senators of both parties praised Jackson’s character during the committee meeting Monday, even as Republicans renewed objections to a judicial philosophy they said does not closely enough adhere to legislative text and a sentencing record they said was too lenient.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, was the only member of the panel to switch his position on Jackson from the 2021 vote to confirm her for her current seat on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Graham was one of three Senate Republicans — Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski were the others — to vote in favor of Jackson last year.

Monday, Graham, who had never before voted against a Supreme Court nominee, complained about rising partisanship on judicial confirmations over the last two decades and previewed an escalation in that realm.

If Republicans retake the Senate, Graham said, a nominee like Jackson would not even be considered.

“If we’re in charge, she would not have been before this committee,” he said. “You would have had somebody more moderate than this.”

Graham had lobbied for Biden to nominate South Carolina District Court Judge Michelle Childs for the position instead of Jackson.

Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said Monday that most Republicans on the committee conducted themselves well and asked fair questions over 24 hours of hearings last month. Some, though, went too far in questioning Jackson on child pornography cases while they “interrupted and badgered” her, Durbin said.

“It is unfortunate that some moments in our hearing came to that,” he said. “But if there is one positive to take away from these attacks on her, it is that the nation saw the temperament of a good, strong person ready to serve on the highest court of the land.”

Grassley opposed

The panel’s leading Republican, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, said he couldn’t vote for Jackson, despite her qualifications, because he disagreed with her judicial philosophy. He blamed Democrats and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for introducing that criterion.

During the George W. Bush administration, Schumer, a New York Democrat, threatened to filibuster judicial nominees over differences in ideology. He told a Buffalo newspaper in 2003 he was proud of that role.

“Sen. Schumer, 18 years later, are you still proud that you poisoned the water on judicial nominees?” Grassley said Monday. “Now he and other Democrats think it’s unfair that we looked at Judge Jackson’s record and asked her about it. That doesn’t hold up to even the slightest scrutiny.”

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican who, along with Texas’ Ted Cruz, led the Republican the effort to discredit Jackson’s sentencing record on child pornography cases, said Monday his policy disagreement with Jackson prevented him from supporting her.

“My fundamental disagreement with Judge Jackson is not based on her character, her integrity, or her accomplishments. I think those things are beyond question,” Hawley said. “It’s based on her policy and her philosophy. And I think on these court issues, she is just dead wrong.”

Democrats said Republicans distorted Jackson’s sentencing record, noting that her sentencing was in line with most other federal judges.

Representatives for the American Bar Association, the largest legal professional group in the United States that gave Jackson its highest rating of well qualified, also told the committee last month that Jackson’s sentencing was within the mainstream of American judges.

The Senate Judiciary Committee vote was delayed several hours as Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., was late in arriving on a flight from Los Angeles, due to another passenger’s medical emergency, Durbin said.


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Jacob Fischler
Jacob Fischler

Jacob covers federal policy as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Based in Oregon, he focuses on Western issues. His coverage areas include climate, energy development, public lands and infrastructure.