Senate panel deadlocks on Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination

The Senate Judiciary Committee deadlocked on Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination in a Monday vote, the panel’s first tie on a high court pick since 1991. 

Senators voted 11-11 on sending Jackson’s nomination to the full Senate, with the vote breaking down along party lines. The evenly split committee is one of the byproducts of the 50-50 Senate. 

It’s the first committee tie vote on a Supreme Court nominee since Justice Clarence Thomas’s nomination. 

The split vote doesn’t sink Jackson’s nomination, but it will require the Senate to formally discharge her nomination from committee. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is expected to move to do so later Monday, the first time a Supreme Court nominee has had to be discharged from committee since 1853. 

Jackson is the first Black female Supreme Court nominee to appear before the committee. If confirmed as expected, she’ll be the first Black woman on the nation’s highest court. 

“This committee action today is nothing less than making history,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. 

The vote was delayed for several hours Monday after Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) had a flight delay.

It comes after a four-day committee hearing on Jackson’s nomination last month that included testy exchanges with Republican senators on the panel, some of whom are viewed as having White House ambitions. 

Republicans used the hearing to question Jackson’s sentences related to certain child pornography cases, her work related to Guantánamo Bay detainees and her broader judicial philosophy, questioning if she would be “soft on crime.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who will oppose Jackson marking his first “no” vote on a Supreme Court nominee, argued that Jackson was meant to appeal to the “hard left.” 

“They made that choice and we’ll see how it plays out,” Graham said about the White House’s decision. 

Graham defended his frequent interruptions of Jackson, noting that he interrupts when he thinks nominees are evading his question, and said Jackson would be an “activist” on the Supreme Court. 

“She wants an outcome, she’s going to find it,” Graham said, while saying that she was “completely evasive” on questions. 

Republicans also used the hours-long debate ahead of the committee vote on Monday to relitigate their criticism of Jackson’s sentencing on child porn cases. 

“These aren’t just numbers. These are criminals with real victims,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). 

Supreme Court confirmation fights have grown increasingly partisan in the Senate. 

Republicans nixed the 60-vote filibuster for Supreme Court nominees in 2017 — following a similar step Democrats took in 2013 for lower-court picks. 

During the Trump administration, only three Democratic senators supported Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination in 2017. Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) was the only Democratic senator to vote for Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination a year later, while no Democrats voted for Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination in 2020. 

Graham, pointing back to Democratic opposition to Trump-era nominees, said that it would be “odd” for Judiciary Committee Republicans to support Jackson’s nomination and that Republicans wouldn’t be “trained seals over here clapping when you appoint a liberal.” 

He also signaled that Republicans wouldn’t have moved Jackson as a Supreme Court nominee if they had controlled the Senate and would have demanded a nominee who was more moderate. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that he would block Biden from filling a Supreme Court vacancy in 2024 if Republicans controlled the Senate, while refusing to say if he would let a vacancy that occurred in 2023 be filled. 

“If we get back the Senate and we’re in charge of this body and there is judicial openings we will talk to our colleagues on the other side. But if we were in charge, she would not have been before this committee. You would have had somebody more moderate than this,” Graham said. 

“So I want you to know right now the process you started to go to a simple majority vote is going to rear its head here pretty soon where we’re in charge then we’ll talk about judges differently,” he added. 

Democrats knocked a handful of GOP senators on the committee, arguing that their line of questioning during the hearings was aimed at getting on TV and feeding the GOP base. 

Durbin said that “on the whole” GOP senators “treated the nominee with dignity and respect.” 

“Some, however, did not,” Durbin said. “Instead, they repeatedly interrupted and badgered Judge Jackson and accused her of vile things in front of her parents, her husband and her children. There was table pounding, some literal, from a few of my colleagues.” 

Tags Clarence Thomas Dick Durbin Dick Durbin Judicial nominations Ketanji Brown Jackson Ketanji Brown Jackson Lindsey Graham Lindsey Graham Supreme Court Tom Cotton

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