Senate Confirms Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court

Luca Palma Poth, Contributing Writer

After weeks of debates and hearings, Ketanji Brown Jackson has officially been confirmed by the US Senate as a Supreme Court justice. Supported by all 50 Democratic senators as well as three Republicans—Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine), and Mitt Romney (Utah)—she has made history as the first Black woman on the Supreme Court. However, partisanship in the US Senate made for a rocky confirmation hearing process.

Jackson’s confirmation hearings took place during the week of March 21st. Held before the Senate Judiciary Committee of 22 Senators, including 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans, these hearings saw clashes between Democrats and Republicans as Republican senators questioned Jackson on cases relating to child pornography and accused her of being too soft on sex offenders. After she had been questioned repeatedly on this by Republican senators Josh Hawley (Missouri), Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), John Kennedy (Louisiana), and Ted Cruz (Texas), the Democratic side showed its frustration. “You have done what 80% of the judges have done; you’re in the mainstream of sentencing when it comes to child pornography cases,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told Jackson during the hearings. He continued, “I also think it’s ironic that Josh Hawley, who unleashed this discredited attack, refuses to acknowledge that his own choice for federal judge in the Eastern District of Missouri has done exactly what you did.”

These hearings saw clashes between Democrats and Republicans.

The Republican senators’ behavior drew much controversy among not only Democratic senators but Americans in general, who overwhelmingly support Jackson’s nomination. Graham in particular has drawn anger from Democrats for bickering, interrupting Jackson, and storming off of the Senate floor during the hearing. Despite his past support for Ketanji Brown Jackson’s appointment as a federal appeals judge, Graham voted against con- firming her appointment to the Supreme Court and said that she would not have had a hearing if Republicans had held the Senate. “If we get back the Senate, and we’re in charge of this body, and there’s judicial openings, we will talk to our colleagues on the other side,” Graham said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for Jackson’s nomination. “But if we were in charge, she would not have been before this committee.”

CRLS freshman Ido Kirson criticized the hearings and the questions. “I think that many of the questions that Republican senators asked Ketanji Brown Jackson were irrelevant to the hearings and general process,” Kirson said to the Register Forum. In recent years, the Senate’s partisan nature has increasingly affected the confirmation process. Historically, Supreme Court nominees were able to win the votes of 90 or more senators due to the unity over backing the president’s choice of nominee. However, the 21st century has seen senators become increasingly unwilling to vote for a Supreme Court pick from a president of the opposing party. In 2017, Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota) said of her vote for Gorsuch, “Would he be the judge I’d pick? No, never … But he is the judge that the duly elected president picked.” While once common, this sentiment and commitment to unity and accomplishment felt by senators has increasingly faded away, yet another example of the partisan gridlock that is defining Washington today.

This piece also appears in our April 2022 print edition.