Senate

Collins to back Jackson for Supreme Court

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) gives a non-answer to a reporter during a photo op with Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson prior to their meeting on Tuesday, March 8, 2022.
Greg Nash

Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) on Wednesday said she would support Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court, becoming the first Republican to back her confirmation. 

“After reviewing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s extensive record, watching much of her hearing testimony, and meeting with her twice in person, I have concluded that she possesses the experience, qualifications, and integrity to serve as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court,” Collins said in a statement.

“I will, therefore, vote to confirm her to this position,” she added. 

The decision by Collins to back Jackson means there will be no tie vote in the Senate on her confirmation assuming all 50 Democrats vote “yes,” as expected. Vice President Harris could have broken the tie, but it would have marked a historic first for a Supreme Court nomination. 

Collins was viewed as the most likely GOP “yes” vote for Jackson, who will be the first Black female justice. Collins has voted for every Supreme Court nominee since she joined the Senate except Justice Amy Coney Barrett, whom she opposed because the vote came before the 2020 election and not because of her qualifications. 

Top Democrats and the White House also worked heavily to court Collins. 

Collins spoke multiple times with President Biden, whom she served with when he was in the Senate, and had a second meeting with Jackson Tuesday to ask follow-up questions after the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week. 

And she previously told The Hill that Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, reached out to her almost immediately after news broke of Justice Stephen Breyer’s decision to retire. 

Collins, in her statement, said she gives presidents “considerable deference” on Supreme Court nominees, arguing that it “runs counter to the disturbing trend of politicizing the judicial nomination process.” 

“It used to be common for Senators to give the President, regardless of political party, considerable deference in the choice of a nominee. … This approach served the Senate, the Court, and the Country well. It instilled confidence in the independence and the integrity of the judiciary and helped keep the Court above the political fray,” Collins said. 

Collins’s vote is a win for Democrats. While they could have confirmed Jackson on their own, peeling off at least one GOP senator allows them to tout her nomination as bipartisan. 

Collins was one of three GOP senators who voted to confirm Jackson last year to her appeals court post, along with Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). 

Democrats are on track to hold a vote on Jackson’s nomination before they leave for a two-week break. The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on her nomination on Monday. That sets up the Senate to confirm her by April 8. 

It is not clear if any other Republicans will vote for Jackson, with members of leadership putting the high-water mark for potential GOP support at three “yes” votes. 

Graham is widely viewed as likely to oppose Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination after criticizing her during, and after, the Judiciary Committee hearing. 

Murkowski and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) are both viewed as potential “yes” votes. Murkowski has been tightlipped on the nomination but met with Jackson earlier this month. Romney met with her on Tuesday but has said he could wait until the day of the Senate’s vote to say how he will ultimately come down. 

The New York Times was the first to report Collins’s planned vote after she confirmed her decision to them in an interview.

Here is the full statement from Collins:

After reviewing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s extensive record, watching much of her hearing testimony, and meeting with her twice in person, I have concluded that she possesses the experience, qualifications, and integrity to serve as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court.  I will, therefore, vote to confirm her to this position. 

Judge Jackson has sterling academic and professional credentials.  She was a Supreme Court clerk, a public defender, a respected attorney, and a member of the Sentencing Commission.  She has served as a federal District Court judge for more than eight years and currently sits on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.  Her stellar qualifications were confirmed by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, which awarded her its highest rating of “unanimously well qualified.”

In my meetings with Judge Jackson, we discussed in depth several issues that were raised in her hearing.  Sometimes I agreed with her; sometimes I did not.  And just as I have disagreed with some of her decisions to date, I have no doubt that, if Judge Jackson is confirmed, I will not agree with every vote that she casts as a Justice.   

That alone, however, is not disqualifying.  Indeed, that statement applies to all six Justices, nominated by both Republican and Democratic Presidents, whom I have voted to confirm. 

No matter where you fall on the ideological spectrum, anyone who has watched several of the last Supreme Court confirmation hearings would reach the conclusion that the process is broken.  Part of the reason is that, in recent years, the process has increasingly moved away from what I believe to be appropriate for evaluating a Supreme Court nominee.

In my view, the role the Constitution clearly assigns to the Senate is to examine the experience, qualifications, and integrity of the nominee.  It is not to assess whether a nominee reflects the ideology of an individual Senator or would rule exactly as an individual Senator would want.

It used to be common for Senators to give the President, regardless of political party, considerable deference in the choice of a nominee.  One need look no further than the 98-0 vote Justice Scalia received in 1986 and the 96-3 vote Justice Ginsburg received in 1993.

This approach served the Senate, the Court, and the Country well.  It instilled confidence in the independence and the integrity of the judiciary and helped keep the Court above the political fray.  And this is the approach that I plan to continue to use for Supreme Court nominations because it runs counter to the disturbing trend of politicizing the judicial nomination process.  

— This story was updated at 9:17 a.m.

Tags Amy Coney Barrett Biden Dick Durbin Joe Biden Ketanji Brown Jackson Lindsey Graham Lisa Murkowski Mitt Romney Stephen Breyer Supreme Court Susan Collins

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