WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee deadlocked Monday, 11-11, on whether to advance Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination to the full Senate, one of many procedural steps to come then that Democrats aim to confirm by the end of the week.
Despite the 11-11 vote, Presidential nominee Joe Biden is still on track to be confirmed this week as the first black woman on the high court in more than 200 years of history, and the sixth woman.
In a bid to move forward, Democrats have scheduled a new vote to “release” Jackson’s nomination from the committee on Monday night, then take a series of procedural steps in the coming days to push it through the Senate 50-50 . With the backing of at least one Republican, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, Jackson is on track for confirmation by the end of the week.
Earlier Monday, Biden urged senators to support her in a tweet at the start of the committee meeting.
“Justice Jackson will bring to the Supreme Court extraordinary qualifications, deep experience and intelligence, and a rigorous judicial record,” Biden tweeted. “She deserves to be confirmed as the next judge.”
FILE IMAGE – United States Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson meets with United States Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) on Capitol Hill on March 29, 2022 in Washington, DC (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Pictures)
Jackson has already faced more than 30 hours of hearings and questioning on his case last month. Democrats — and at least one Republican — cited her deep experience during her nine years on the federal bench and her chance to become the first former public defender on the court.
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Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said at the opening of Monday’s meeting that Jackson had “the highest standard of skill, integrity, civility and grace.”
“The action of this committee today is nothing less than making history,” Durbin said. “I am honored to be a part of it. I will strongly and proudly support Justice Jackson’s nomination.”
The Senate panel’s top Republican, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, said he opposes Jackson’s nomination because “she and I have fundamental and differing views on the role of judges and the role they should play in our system of government”.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham also said he would not vote for Jackson, expressing concerns about his record despite supporting his confirmation as an appeals court judge last year. The South Carolina senator’s announcement was expected after he criticized Jackson during his four days of confirmation hearings.
In a speech to the Senate, Graham said his decision was based in part on what he sees as “flawed sentencing methodology regarding child pornography cases,” echoing a line of questioning from some Republicans. of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Several senators, some considering a run for president, have repeatedly questioned her about her sentencing decisions during her nine years as a federal judge in an effort to paint her as too soft on sex criminals.
It was unclear until now whether other Republicans would join Collins. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky set the tone for the party last week when he said he “cannot and will not” support Jackson, citing GOP concerns raised during the hearing regarding his conviction record and his support of liberal advocacy groups.
Republicans on the judiciary panel on Monday continued their efforts to portray Jackson as soft on crime, defending their repeated questions about his sex crimes conviction.
“Questions are not attacks,” said Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, one of several GOP senators on the panel who hammered home the point during hearings two weeks ago.
Jackson pushed back at that point, stating “nothing could be further from the truth.”
Senate committee concludes hearings on Supreme Court nominee
Legal experts praised Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on her final day of Senate hearings, with a panel of top lawyers saying her review found she had a ‘serious’ reputation, ‘exceptional’ skill and that she was well qualified to serve on the Supreme Court.
Democrats are hoping to win bipartisan votes for President Joe Biden’s historic nominee, but Republicans have painted Jackson as soft on crime during his nine years on the federal bench. Jackson, backed by committee Democrats, pushed back against that GOP account in more than 22 hours of questioning, detailing the sentencing process and telling them, “nothing could be further from the truth.”
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Jackson, 51, said she would rule “from a position of neutrality” on the High Court on day two of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The hearings included Republican suggestions that she gave light sentences to child pornographers.
Durbin, the Judiciary Committee Chairman who preemptively raised concerns previously raised by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Jackson pushed back against the idea that his decisions could have endangered children.
“As a mother and a judge who had to deal with these cases, I thought nothing could be further from the truth,” Jackson said, calling it “some of the toughest cases a judge has to deal with.”
She described looking into the eyes of the defendants and explaining the lifelong effects on the victims. It’s “important to me to represent that children’s voices are represented,” she said.
A look back at Ketanji Brown Jackson’s career
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed in 2021 to the DC Court of Appeals as a U.S. circuit judge, a post to which Biden elevated her from her previous position as a federal trial court judge. Three current justices – Thomas, Kavanaugh and John Roberts, the chief justice – have previously served on the same appeals court.
Jackson was confirmed in the appeals court by a vote of 53 to 44 in June 2021, winning the support of three Republicans: Graham, Collins and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
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Another interesting GOP connection: Jackson is related by marriage to former House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Jackson’s husband, Dr. Patrick Jackson, is the brother of William Jackson, who married Ryan’s wife’s sister, Dana.
Jackson was born in Washington, DC, but grew up in Miami. She said her parents, Johnny and Ellery Brown, chose her name to express their pride in her family’s African ancestry. They asked an aunt who was in the Peace Corps in Africa at the time to send a list of African girl names and they chose Ketanji Onyika, which they were told meant “beautiful”.
She traces her interest in law to when she was in kindergarten and her father was in law school and they sat together at the dining room table, her with coloring books and him with law books. Her father became a county school board attorney and her mother was a high school principal. She has a brother nine years her junior who served in the army, notably in Iraq, and who is now a lawyer.
In high school, she was president of her public high school class and champion debater. Richard B. Rosenthal, a lawyer who has known her since college, said there was no doubt she would rise to the top of whatever field she chose, describing her as “destined for greatness”. Her older brother, Stephen F. Rosenthal, a classmate and friend from Miami who also went to college and law school with her, called her a “natural leader” and someone with ” penetrating intelligence”.
Jackson attended Harvard, where she studied government, but was also involved in theater and musical theater and was part of an improv group called On Thin Ice. At one point, actor Matt Damon was assigned to her as an acting class partner, she said, acknowledging he probably wouldn’t remember her. He doesn’t, Damon confirmed through a rep, but added, “That’s so cool!”
Also at Harvard, she met her husband, who is a surgeon at Georgetown University Hospital, and the couple have two daughters.
From 1999 to 2000, Jackson clerked for Breyer on the Supreme Court. Deborah Pearlstein, legal assistant to Judge John Paul Stevens in the same year Jackson worked for Breyer, recalled Jackson as funny, insightful and “incredibly good at her job”.
“I don’t know anyone at the time who didn’t get along with Ketanji,” Pearlstein said.
Jackson has since worked for major law firms during his career, but has also served as a public defender. After being nominated to serve on the US Sentencing Commission, the agency that crafts federal sentencing policy, she learned to knit to cope with the stress of the nomination and confirmation process, she said.
As commissioner, she participated in a unanimous vote to allow thousands of people already incarcerated in federal prison for crack-related crimes to have their sentences reduced as a result of a new law.
And Jackson’s work on the Sentencing Commission paved the way for her to become a federal trial judge, where one of the things she displayed in her office was a copy of a famous handwritten petition to the Supreme Court from a Florida prisoner, Clarence Gideon. . The Supreme Court took up his case and handed down a landmark decision guaranteeing a lawyer to defendants who are too poor to afford one.
Jackson had served as a federal trial court judge since 2013, appointed by former President Barack Obama.
Jackson is currently a member of the Judicial Conference Committee on Defender Services, as well as the Harvard University Board of Overseers and the Council of the American Law Institute. She also currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Georgetown Day School and the United States Supreme Court Scholars Commission.
Kelly Hayes and the Associated Press contributed.