After the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-11, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for a vote to break the deadlock and send his nomination to the floor. All Democrats and three Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — voted for Jackson.
“Justice Jackson will bring to the Supreme Court the highest level of skill, integrity, civility and grace,” Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said Monday in explaining his support for her. “The action of this committee today is nothing short of making history. I am honored to be a part of it.”
“My support is based on Judge Jackson’s undisputed qualifications; her demonstrated judicial independence; her demeanor and temperament; and the important perspective she would bring to the courtroom as Justice Breyer’s replacement,” Murkowski said Monday. “It is also based on my rejection of the corrosive politicization of the Supreme Court nominee review process, which, on both sides of the aisle, gets worse every year and further from reality.”
Some Republican senators said Monday they weren’t swayed by Jackson’s assertion that he doesn’t have a judicial philosophy per se, but rather a methodology that ensures he governs impartially.
“The judge should call balls and strikes,” said Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, alluding to Chief Justice John Roberts’ metaphor likening a judge to an umpire. “And given what I’ve seen, and his unwillingness to reveal his judicial philosophy and repudiate an expansionist view of unenumerated rights, I am concerned that Judge Jackson is a pinch hitter for one team or another.”
Other Republican senators portrayed Jackson as a pawn of the “radical left.” Texas Senator Ted Cruz said he believed “she will prove to be the most extreme and most left-leaning judge who has ever served on the Supreme Court of the United States.” Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton said Jackson would “coddle criminals and terrorists.” And Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley criticized her sentencing decisions in some child pornography cases.
Democrats said some Republicans were fomenting fear and selecting cases, noting that she authored more than 550 cases in her eight years as a district judge and that the Senate had already confirmed her for three previous seats. California Senator Dianne Feinstein said that Jackson “had a very low reversal rate of only 2%”. Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal said the GOP had engaged in “meritless demagoguery” and “fabricated outrage.” And New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker noted support for Jackson from law enforcement groups, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Fraternal Order of Police, and those advocating for victims such as the Alliance Children’s National.
Graham, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said that while Jackson exhibits “exceptionally good character,” he was too lenient in sentencing those cases and had “activist fervor” in calling for war on former President George W. Bush and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield. criminals in legal briefs while advocating for a detainee.
“My decision is based on her record of judicial activism, flawed sentencing methodology in child pornography cases, and the belief that Justice Jackson will not be deterred by the plain meaning of the law when it comes to liberal causes,” Graham said. .
Durbin rebutted Graham on both issues on the Senate floor last week, calling Jackson “in the sentencing mainstream” of child pornography cases and saying Republicans also voted for President Donald Trump’s judges who “do exactly the same as her”. He said it was a “gross exaggeration and unfair on its face” to say that Jackson had called Bush administration officials “war criminals.”
It is rare for the Senate Judiciary Committee to tie a Supreme Court nomination. But nomination battles have become increasingly contentious, and the current Senate is split 50-50, so there are an even number of Democrats and Republicans on the panel, rather than the majority party having more seats.
In the past five decades, the panel has deadlocked once: over Clarence Thomas, who was facing sexual harassment allegations. Fifteen Justices: William Rehnquist, John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, approved the committee during that time period.
In the Trump era, Senate Republicans strengthened conservative control of the court from 5-4 to 6-3, after delaying President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland for another election year, 2016, and then confirming to Gorsuch in 2017, and Coney Barrett in 2020 to replace the late Ginsburg. Jackson’s confirmation would likely replace one liberal, Breyer, with another.
“I think everything indicates that Justice Jackson is going to be a liberal activist on the bench,” Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell said on Fox last week. “But the good news for people like me is that the Court is still 6-3.”
“We’ve made massive changes in the last four years that I think have put the Court in a very strong position with a lot of judges believing in the quaint notion that maybe a judge should follow the law,” he added.
This story and the headline have been updated with additional developments on Monday.
CNN’s Tierney Sneed and Daniel Dale contributed to this report.