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Senate votes 53-47 to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first black female Supreme Court justice

Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the Senate and banged the gavel to declare the final vote count and seal Jackson's confirmation, as Democrats throughout the Senate chamber broke out in raucous applause.  

The Senate voted 53-47 on Thursday to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, with three Republicans voting with all Democrats.

Jackson, a 51 year-old federal appeals court judge, will be the first black woman on the high court and the third black justice. Her confirmation vote was not nearly as bipartisan as that of the justice she’d been chosen to replace, Stephen Breyer, and others. But still, President Biden can tout a bipartisan win thanks to yes votes from GOP Sens. Mitt Romney, Utah, Susan Collins, Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, Alaska.

Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the Senate and banged the gavel to declare the final vote count and seal Jackson’s confirmation, as Democrats throughout the Senate chamber broke out in raucous applause.

President Biden watched the vote tally come in with Jackson in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Photos showed them holding hands and excitedly hugging as enough votes came in to confirm Jackson’s nomination.

Breyer, 83, had come under intense pressure from progressives to retire while Democrats still hold the White House, House and Senate and let someone younger step in.

Jackson joins two other Democrat-appointed justices, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, on the 6-3 conservative-dominated court. She will be sworn in during the summer recess, when Breyer officially steps down.


President Biden watched the vote tally come in with Jackson in the Roosevelt Room of the White House
President Biden watched the vote tally come in with Jackson in the Roosevelt Room of the White House

After 99 senators had voted, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., held up the vote when he was nowhere to be found on the Senate floor. After about 30 minutes he finally showed up to cast his ‘no’ vote. Paul, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., had to cast their ‘no’ vote from the cloakroom because they did not wear a tie. Senate dress code requirements require a jacket and tie for men.

Seated in the front row of the VIP gallery was Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff. Members of the White House ‘sherpa’ team were also in the gallery, along with Democratic commentator Donna Brazille and at least 17 members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

President Biden’s designated sherpa, former Alabama Democrat Sen. Doug Jones, was standing in the back of the chamber. The sherpa guides a Supreme Court nominee through the interviews and hearings that make up the confirmation process.

Biden took a break from watching the Senate confirm his nominee's position on the bench to take a selfie
Biden took a break from watching the Senate confirm his nominee’s position on the bench to take a selfie

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee aggressively interrogated Jackson over her sentencing record, arguing that Jackson had offered lenient sentences, particularly to child porn offenders. Some went after her record defending Guantanamo Bay detainees as a public defender, at which time she called President George W. Bush a ‘war criminal.’

Other Republicans cited her refusal to offer a judicial philosophy and her refusal to weigh in on issues like court packing and the definition of a ‘woman’ as reason to vote no.

Harris told reporters after the vote: ‘I’m overjoyed, deeply moved. You know, there’s so much about what’s happening in the world now that is presenting some of the worst of this moment and human behaviors. And then we have a moment like this that I think reminds us that there is still so much yet to accomplish and that we can accomplish, including a day like today that is so historic and so important, for so many reasons.’

‘I do believe is a very important statement about who we are as a nation, that we have just made a decision to put this extraordinary jurist on the highest court of our land. It’s a good statement about who we are.’

Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., praised Jackson ahead of the vote and touted that she would be the first justice with experience as a public defender.

‘As I’ve said over and over again, there are three words that I think best fit Judge Jackson: brilliant, beloved, belongs.’ He called Jackson ‘one of the most experienced individuals ever nominated to the Supreme Court.’

‘There is no question: The country, by and large, wants the Senate to confirm Judge Jackson.’

GOP leader Mitch McConnell said that Biden had set out to nominate a ‘judicial activist’ and Jackson checked off that box.

‘Today the far left will get the Supreme Court justice they want,’ the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor. ‘As a violent crime wave sweeps America, Democrats are pursuing a nationwide campaign to make the justice system softer on crime.’

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in a press conference ahead of the vote said he believed Jackson would be ‘the furthest left justice to have ever served on the Supreme Court. Cruz and Jackson were schoolmates at Harvard Law.

‘There is no area of law where her record is more extreme than in criminal law,’ Cruz added.

Jackson throughout the hearing repeatedly reiterated that she would rule with impartiality and would not ‘legislate from the bench’ as some have predicted.

‘I have been a judge for nearly a decade now, and I take that responsibility and my duty to be independent very seriously,’ Jackson said. ‘I decide cases from a neutral posture. I evaluate the facts, and I interpret and apply the law to the facts of the case before me, without fear or favor, consistent with my judicial oath.’

In addition to her nine years on the federal bench, Jackson has worked both as a public defender and at a private law firm and served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission. She also clerked for Breyer.  Jackson was confirmed to the D.C. circuit just last June.

‘Can you define the word ”woman”?’ Sen. Marsha Blackburn had asked Jackson in one viral moment of the Judiciary Committee hearings.

‘Can I provide a definition?’ Jackson responded.

‘No, I can’t,’ she declared, before adding: ‘I’m not a biologist.’

And of Jackson’s 100 sentencings over eight years as a trial judge, Republicans focused in on eight child porn cases where they viewed her sentences to be too lenient. In these cases, the sentences she offered were far short of what federal sentencing guidelines would dictate and what prosecutors sought.

Jackson implied that in the age of the internet, some child porn sentences needed to be lighter than others because of ease of access.

‘With one click you can receive, you can distribute tens of thousands.’

‘You can be doing this for 15 minutes and all of a sudden, you are looking at 30, 40, 50 years in prison,’ she said.

‘Good! Good! Absolutely, good! I hope you are!’ Graham shouted back.

‘I hope you go to jail for 50 years if you’re on the internet trolling for images of children and sexual exploitation,’ he said.

‘I think the best way to deter people from getting on a computer and viewing thousands and hundred – and over time maybe millions, the population as a whole – of children being exploited and abused every time somebody clicks on is to put their a** in jail,’ he offered. ‘Not supervise their computer usage.’

Murkowski on Thursday lauded the judge’s ‘grace’ throughout the attacks by her colleagues. ‘Think about the kind of the strength under fire that we saw with this nominee, a level temperament that I think was very clear, you saw what I would call grace under pressure,’ she told reporters after the vote. -Dailymail

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