Democrats Hope for Bipartisan Vote for Ketanji Brown Jackson
Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings were historic, grueling, and at times combative between Senators. It will be up to a small group of Republicans, who have listened for 22 hours and analyzed her responses that determine whether or not the Supreme Court confirms Black women with bipartisan support.
The Senate Judiciary Committee still has to approve Jackson. They are scheduled to vote on Jackson on April 4. But many are now watching for the next full Senate vote. Democrats hold a narrow majority in the Senate, and Jackson can be confirmed without Republican votes. But Republican votes for Jackson’s confirmation could be a much needed win for President Joe Biden, and several Democratic Senators tell TIME that they feel optimistic that she’s garnered that support.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut on the Judiciary Committee, told TIME Thursday he thinks “my colleagues on the Republican side have been impressed by her” and expects there “will be some” who vote to confirm her to the high court. Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, also says that he thinks Jackson will be confirmed with bipartisan support and said he’s “actively” speaking with Republican colleagues about her.
Former Democratic Senator Doug Jones of Alabama, Jackson’s White House appointed “sherpa” who has been guiding her around the Hill to private meetings with Senators, told reporters Thursday: “Look, we’re going to get some GOP support,” adding “we’ll see” about how many Republican votes he expects.
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Jackson has already appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee three times before this week’s hearings, and she was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit Court was supported by bipartisans last year. Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) voted in her favor to be added to the appellate court.
Graham appears unlikely to vote for Graham this time. “I thought she was qualified to be on the Circuit Court. This is a different game,” Graham told NBC News Thursday. “She could make policy now.” Graham, a committee member, fiercely questioned Jackson on her child porn sentencing record after Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, alleged she sentenced offenders to prison time shorter than what federal guidelines recommended. Jackson strongly refuted the characterization, and the White House called the accusation a “QAnon-signaling smear.”
Collins and Murkowski did not indicate clearly their positions on the judge. When asked by TIME if she’s been following the hearings, Collins said that she had been, but because her own schedule has been “extremely busy” she’s had her staff assemble “a lot of excerpts” that she plans to review over the weekend.
In an interview with POLITICO on Wednesday, Murkowski said that Jackson’s child porn sentencing record is “worth looking into” but said she’d like to determine whether or not it was a pattern before she decides whether it should impact her vote. “If it really is a pattern, that’s something I think we should be paying attention to. If it is an issue of … one-offs that have been hyped into more than that, I think that’s something we need to try to discern,” Murkowski said.
Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah, didn’t vote to confirm Jackson to the D.C. He has voted with the party in major elections but not Circuit. When asked by TIME on Thursday if he had thoughts on the judge’s confirmation hearings, he said he’s “not watching” but will “make a review this weekend.” In an interview with the Washington Post on Tuesday, Romney said that “the attacks that came from some” on the committee were “off course” and there “is no ‘there’ there.”
Collins met Jackson March 8. Jones reported Thursday that Murkowski has also met with Jackson. Romney is scheduled to meet with her in the next week.
While Democrats have telegraphed optimism that bipartisan support for Jackson is a possibility, Republicans say they’re less sure. “Those discussions are ongoing,” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a member of the Judiciary Committee, told TIME. “I don’t know if any Republicans will vote to confirm.” Hawley also says he doesn’t know, adding that “people are going to think it over.”
Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, says that he hasn’t heard of any Republican “who’s a yes.” Yet he also told TIME that he thinks “there’ll probably be maybe one or two Republicans.” When asked who, he said, “You can probably guess.”
Washington Post, 40 Democrats and one independent have already pledged to support Jackson’s confirmation should it come to a floor vote, and 11 Republicans have said they will oppose it, including their Senate leader Mitch McConnell. As of now, moderate Democrats such as Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—who have broken with their party on key legislative votes over the past year—have not indicated that they were leaning against confirming the judge, and both voted to confirm her last year.
For now, Democrats say they’re hopeful, but not certain. “I think so,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, a committee member from California, says about whether Jackson will get any Republican votes. “Let’s wait and see. I don’t want to jinx it.”
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