The full Senate is expected to vote on Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court later this week after the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote Monday on President Biden’s nominee ended in a tie.
The 11-to-11 vote, along party lines, means that Democrats will need to take extra procedural steps to set up a final vote on Jackson’s nomination. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) will likely file a “motion to discharge” the Judiciary Committee from her nomination, which requires only a simple majority vote to approve.
Prior to Monday’s committee vote, Republican senators repeated concerns about Jackson's record as a federal judge.
“If Judge Jackson is confirmed, I believe she will prove to be the most extreme and the furthest left justice ever to serve on the United States Supreme Court,” Sen. Ted Crux (R-Texas) said.
Among other issues, Cruz claimed that Jackson would vote against 2nd Amendment rights, free speech rights, border enforcement, religious liberty, school choice, and “every single reasonable restriction on abortion across the country,” including restrictions on partial-birth abortion and requirements for parental notification or consent.
He also highlighted Jackson’s record on crime sentencings, which he called “out of the mainstream” and “extreme.”
“In 100% of the child pornography cases where Judge Jackson had discretion,” he said, “she sentenced not just below the guidelines, but below where the prosecutor asked, and usually substantially below.”
Republican senators first began pressing Jackson on her sentencing of child porn offenders after Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) tweeted a thread about her record and concluded that Jackson “deviated from the federal sentencing guidelines in favor of child porn offenders.”
Cruz also said that Jackson will vote to overturn the death penalty, and will oppose strict sentences on violent criminals and sex offenders.
Democrats were quick to defend Jackson. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), addressed what she called criticisms “lodged against this great woman.”
“In eight of the 11 child pornography cases that Judge Jackson handled, she gave a sentence at or above at the probation office recommendations,” she said. “When she imposed other sentences, it was because she looked at the case carefully.”
Klobuchar also pushed back on Republicans’ criticism of Jackson’s statements during her confirmation hearings that does not adhere to any specific judicial philosophy by quoting now-Chief Justice John Roberts. During his confirmation hearings in 2005, he stated that he did not have “an overarching judicial philosophy.”
Klobuchar said that Jackson would “decide cases with fairness” by looking at the facts and the law before making a decision. And, in the process, the senator said, she serve as an inspiration to young children, especially young Black girls.
If confirmed, Jackson would be the first Black woman to sit on the bench of the nation’s highest court. Jackson could be the Supreme Court’s third Black justice, and the sixth woman to become a Supreme Court justice. She would replace retiring Justice Stephen G. Breyer.
The full Senate is expected to vote on Jackson’s nomination before the Senate adjourns for Easter recess on April 8. To sit on the Supreme Court bench, Jackson needs 51 votes in the Senate, which is evenly divided between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. If there is a second tie, Vice President Kamala Harris would serve as the tie-breaker. That situation is unlikely because Jackson has the backing of at least one Republican senator, Susan Collins of Maine.
Throughout Jackson’s hearings, pro-life groups have expressed concern over Jackson’s record on abortion. In addition to having the support of abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood for her nomination, Jackson co-authored a 2001 amicus brief in McGuire v. Reilly in support of a Massachusetts “buffer zone” law that prevented pro-life sidewalk counselors from approaching women outside of abortion clinics, according to Susan B. Anthony List.
A coalition of pro-life leaders warned Senate leaders that, in this brief that Jackson wrote on behalf of abortion groups, she “portrayed pro-life sidewalk counselors as a ‘hostile, noisy crowd of 'in-your-face protesters.’”
Jackson defended herself during the hearings, saying, “That was a statement in a brief, made an argument for my client, it’s not the way that I think of or characterize people.”
On the final day of Jackson’s hearings, 85-year-old Eleanor McCullen, a Catholic pro-life sidewalk counselor from Massachusetts, shared her perspective with senators.
“Her misrepresentations certainly don’t describe me or any of the sidewalk counselors that I have worked with over the years,” McCullen said of Jackson.
Ahead of Monday's committee vote — which was delayed by three hours due to flight compilations for Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) — roughly 35 pro-life students with the pro-life group Students for Life of America gathered outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., to protest Jackson’s nomination. The students wore lab coats, in reference to a remark Jackson made after she was asked to define “woman.” At the time, Jackson responded, “I’m not a biologist.”
“We were just wearing the lab coats to make the statement that, I guess, we’re all biologists because we know what a woman is,” Grace Rykaczewski, 21, of Morristown, New Jersey, told CNA.
Rykaczewski, who studies music education at Rider University, said she woke up at 4 a.m. to drive to the court on Monday.
“We want to have pro-life Supreme Court justices and we think that it is ridiculous that they would put someone on the highest court of the land who doesn’t even know how to define the word ‘woman,’ doesn’t know when life begins,” she said, referencing another question Jackson was asked during her hearings.
She added, “How are you supposed to protect women and even children when you don’t know when life begins or what a woman is?”