Ketanji Brown Jackson Makes History and Becomes the First Black Woman on Supreme Court

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Only three Republicans voted to confirm the court’s first Black woman.

The Senate today voted 53-47 to confirm Ketangi Brown Jackson as President Joe Biden’s first Supreme Court nominee. Only three Republicans, along with all Democrats in the Senate, voted to confirm the Court’s first black female justice.

Jackson, 51, will be the first judge with defense experience since legendary Judge Thurgood Marshall retired in 1991. The mother of two daughters, she has extensive experience as a federal trial judge, having served for eight years on the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. District Court prior to Biden’s appointment last year. Jackson will join Harvard Law School graduates Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch, and Chief Justice John Roberts on the court. At the time of her nomination, she had more legal experience than the other four justices currently on the court.

Republicans have tried to paint Jackson as soft on crime, attacking her for defending a terrorism suspect who is being held indefinitely without trial at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. She spent most of her hearing asking questions that had nothing to do with the law but touched on issues that are hot topics among Republican supporters. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Jackson was the choice of “radical leftist groups” and the “most radical” candidate Biden could have chosen, referring to a campaign that accused right-wing dark money groups of being involved in Jackson’s selection and promotion. Cruz also asked about critical race theory, citing a book used in Washington public schools and whether he thought “babies are racist.” Senator Marsha Blackburn (Democrat), jumping into anti-transgender politics, asked, “What is a woman?” asked.

Cruz pandered to the QAnon cabal in her party, along with Senator Josh Hawley (Democrat, California), by pretending that Jackson was soft on child pornographers during his tenure as a federal court judge. The orchestrated red-meat attacks by Republicans weakened Republican support for Jackson, with nearly 60% of Republicans saying in polls that she was qualified to be Superior Court chief justice before Biden nominated her. After the hearings, however, that dropped to about 30%.

Overall, seeing her grace under pressure, Americans are not comfortable with Republican attacks on Jackson, who has proven to be no left-wing extremist. Only 27% of those polled by Quinnipiac agreed with the Republican response to her. After all, the Republicans could not have had the votes to block her nomination if only all Democrats had voted for her. Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) had said early on that he would support Jackson. The only open question in the confirmation process was whether Republicans might cross the aisle. Initially, only Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who came under heavy fire for voting for Judge Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, appeared to support Jackson.

However, there was a glimmer of bipartisanship when Senator Mitt Romney (R-Texas), who voted against confirming Jackson to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals last summer, unexpectedly voted to confirm Jackson to the Supreme Court. In a statement announcing his intention to vote to confirm Jackson, Romney acknowledged that he disagreed with Jackson’s judicial philosophy in some respects, but called her “a person of dignity.” “While I do not expect to agree with every decision she will make on the court,” he said, “I believe she more than meets the standards of excellence and integrity.