DemDaily: The Ketanji Count

April 1, 2022 

With the announcement Wednesday by Republican Senator Susan Collins (ME) that she will vote to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the US Supreme Court, President Biden's nominee is one step closer to making history.

Collins' vote also means Jackson will be confirmed with bipartisan support in a process that has become anything but unbiased over the last two decades, reflecting the deep political divisions within our country.

With the anticipated vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday to send her nomination to the full Senate, Jackson appears to have sealed the necessary 51 votes needed for confirmation.

The Process: After the President nominates a candidate, the nomination is sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration. After a vetting process, the Committee holds four days of hearings to interview the candidate and witnesses. The Judiciary Committee then votes on the nomination and sends its recommendation to the full Senate. After a floor debate, the Senate votes on confirmation, which requires a simple majority of 51 votes. If there is a tie, the Vice President, who also presides over the Senate, casts the deciding vote.

Although historically SCOTUS nominations garner more bipartisan support from the once collegial Senate, that era ended with the 1994 confirmation vote of 87-9 for Justice Stephen Breyer, nominated by Bill Clinton and whom Jackson will replace.

Justice John Roberts, one of three nominations under President George W. Bush, was confirmed 78-22 in September 2005, and Justice Samuel Alito, by a vote of 58-42 in January 2006. A third nominee, then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers, withdrew amid criticism for her lack of judicial experience and opposition from GOP conservatives.

President Barack Obama successfully nominated two justices to the Supreme Court: Justice Sonia Sotomayor, confirmed in August 2009 by a 68-31 vote of the Senate, and Justice Elena Kagan, confirmed in August 2010 by a vote of 63-37.

His third nomination in March 2016 of DC Circuit Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy created by the death of Antonin Scalia, marked a nasty turning point in the history of the process.

Republicans, then in control of the US Senate, refused to hold a hearing or vote on Garland's nomination, deferring it for an unprecedented 293 days until the results of the 2016 presidential election. Since 1975, the time between nomination and a Senate vote has averaged 68 days.

Newly-elected GOP President Donald Trump subsequently nominated conservative judge Neil Gorsuch, whom the Senate confirmed 54-45 in April 2017.

In the most controversial confirmation hearings since those of Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991, Trump nominee Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed in October 2018. The 50-48 vote by the GOP-controlled Senate included one Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin (WV).

The fastest confirmation process of the last five decades was that of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was seated on October 26, 2020, 27 days after being nominated and just one week before the presidential election. The Senate party-line vote of 52-48 was the first time since 1869 that a nominee failed to win a single vote from the opposite party.

Status of the Nomination
With all fifty Democrats, including Manchin, and one Republican committed to voting yes, the question now is the final vote tally.

Undeterred, however, GOP leaders continue to condemn the nominee, otherwise deemed "imminently qualified," by the American Bar Association and her peers.

Upon completion of the Senate Judiciary Committee's four-day confirmation hearings last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he would be voting against confirmation.

While most of his Republican colleagues are expected to follow suit, Democrats are still hoping that at least two more Senators, moderates Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mitt Romney (R-UT), may vote to confirm Jackson, who will be the first Black woman to serve on the nation's most powerful court.

Murkowski was one of three Republicans among the 53-44 vote to confirm Jackson's June 2021 nomination to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. The other two were Collins, and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham -- who is now a vocal opponent.

Although less likely to support Jackson's nomination, other potential GOP votes include Senators Roy Blunt (MO), Rob Portman (OH) and Richard Burr (NC), who are all retiring from the Senate this year.

Call Your Senators!
Toll-Free Lines
LCCR: 888.852.7561, #ConfirmJackson
SEIU: 833.304.1629, #ConfirmJudgeJackson
Demand Justice: Call Your Senators
AFL-CIO Petition: Add Your Name

DemDaily: Spinning the Confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson 3/24/22
DemDaily: The Confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson. Under Fire 3/23/22
DemDaily: The Confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson 3/21/22
DemDaily: Confirming Our Next Justice. The Vetting of Ketanji Brown Jackson 3/4/22
DemDaily: Who Is Ketanj Brown Jackson? 2/25/22

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: NPR, Washington Post, Courier Journal

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