Some top Republicans moved quickly Thursday to define Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, as a favorite of the far left, signaling a contentious confirmation battle for the historic nominee.
Biden announced Jackson as his nominee Friday morning, fulfilling a campaign pledge he made exactly two years ago to select a Black woman. If confirmed, Jackson will become the first Black woman and first former public defender to sit on the Supreme Court.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) congratulated Jackson on her nomination to succeed retiring Justice Stephen G. Breyer and said he looks forward to meeting with her in person as he studies her record, legal views and judicial philosophy.
He called for a “rigorous, exhaustive review” of Jackson’s nomination, noting she has only published two opinions since joining the D.C. Court of Appeals last June, both of which came within the last few weeks.
“One of her prior rulings was just reversed by a unanimous panel of her present colleagues on the D.C. Circuit,” McConnell said. “I also understand Judge Jackson was the favored choice of far-left, ‘dark money’ groups that have spent years attacking the legitimacy and structure of the court itself.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of three Republicans to support Jackson’s nomination to the appellate court last year, also cast her selection as a victory for the far left.
Graham had backed J. Michelle Childs, a U.S. District Court judge in South Carolina who had the vocal public endorsement of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.). Had Childs been selected, she would’ve joined Justice Amy Coney Barrett as the only members of the court without degrees from Harvard or Yale Law School.
“It means the radical left has won President Biden over yet again,” Graham said Friday. “I expect a respectful but interesting hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Harvard-Yale train to the Supreme Court continues to run unabated.”
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), the lone Republican woman on the Judiciary Committee, called Biden’s announcement in the aftermath of a full-scale Russian invasion into Ukraine “extremely inappropriate” and an example of the president “putting the demands of the radical progressive left ahead of what is best for our nation.”
“We must not blindly confirm a justice to serve as a rubber stamp for a radical progressive agenda,” she warned.
Another committee member, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), said he was “troubled by aspects of” Jackson’s record when she appeared before the panel last year, including on crime and criminal justice.
Democrats and progressive groups cheered Jackson’s nomination, saying she is a highly qualified and respected jurist and calling her selection a long overdue step to making the Supreme Court look more like America.
“Women and people of color need a justice with a strong record as a progressive that will finally fight for them. Ketanji Brown Jackson is that justice,” said Meagan Hatcher Mays, director of democracy policy for the liberal outside group Indivisible.
“Conservative justices have happily turned the institution into a weapon in our new culture wars,” she continued. “Judge Jackson will be a welcome addition to the court. But if we really want to change things, we must add seats as well.”
Senate Democrats signaled they would move quickly on Jackson’s confirmation, following a similar one-month timetable used by Senate Republicans for Barrett’s 2020 confirmation.
Despite the GOP skepticism expressed by some on Friday, Democrats predicted Jackson would be confirmed with bipartisan support.
The Senate last year confirmed Jackson to her current post by a 53-44 vote. Three Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Graham — joined every Democrat in voting to confirm Jackson.
In a statement Friday, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) hailed Jackson as “a true public servant and model jurist” with “exceptional qualifications” whose historic nomination “will inspire countless future generations of young Americans.”
“Judge Jackson will receive a prompt hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks,” Schumer said. “After the Judiciary Committee finishes their work, I will ask the Senate to move immediately to confirm her to the Supreme Court.”
With the Senate divided 50-50, Democrats could confirm Jackson on a party-line basis with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tiebreaking vote.
Republicans acknowledged her quick confirmation is likely, barring the loss of a Democratic Senate seat due to a health issue or death. Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), who is recovering from a stroke, has said he will return to the Senate floor soon.
Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the Judiciary Committee chairman, will lead the process to confirm Jackson. Both of California’s senators, Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, sit on the panel that will vet Jackson and hold a hearing on her nomination.
Durbin said the committee will “immediately” take up her nomination “with the careful, fair, and professional approach she and America are entitled to.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said Senate Republicans’ “review will be as fair and respectful as it is complete and comprehensive.”