SCOTUS nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson heads to final confirmation vote, nearing end of historic nomination after controversial committee hearings

By Audrey Martin
Boston University News Service

Clearing a deadlocked Senate Judiciary Committee this week, Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is on track for a confirmation vote by the rest of the U.S. Senate in the days ahead. 

Advancing after a party-line 11-11 vote on Monday, the nominee could be confirmed as soon as next week, with the vast majority of Democratic senators and at least three Republicans planning to vote “Yes” on her nomination, putting her above the necessary 50 votes to join the nation’s highest court.

Jackson, who was nominated by President Biden in February, underwent confirmation hearings in the Senate, where she was asked about critical race theory, gender identity, her religious beliefs, and more. 

Jackson currently serves as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. If confirmed, she will replace current Justice Stephen Breyer who was appointed in 1994 by President Bill Clinton and announced his retirement in January. 

Theda Skocpol, a professor of government and sociology at Harvard University — where Jackson is an alumnus, said she thought Jackson performed well under the scrutiny of Republican senators. 

“She’s very even and she’s very thorough,” Skocpol said. “She spells out reasoning and she listens to reasons on all sides. So, I would say that in hearing she conducted herself exactly that way. She was patient in the face of really nonsensical repetitions on both sides.”

Skocpol equated the hearings to “political theater” and was critical of Republican senators Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, and Marsha Blackburn. 

“I mean, they didn’t ask questions,” she said. “They didn’t allow her to answer. They engaged in bullying — especially the second day, they doubled down. And the chair of the committee, a Democrat, Dick Durbin didn’t bother to enforce the rules and I think that doesn’t make the Senate look good.”

Albert Rivero, a Ph.D. in the department of politics at the University of Virginia and a former Harvard professor, spoke to Jackson’s qualifications for the Supreme Court, including her previous judicial experience and her background as a public defender. 

“Her nomination is historic,” Rivero said, “and we’ve never had a Black woman serve as a Supreme Court justice. Biden pledged to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. There’s a long history of presidents using the court to further goals that political scientists call descriptive representation. So, for example, President Reagan promised to nominate the first woman to the Supreme Court and he did with Sandra Day O’Connor.”

Rivero echoed Skocpol’s points about the congressional hearings being less about senators asking substantiated questions to Jackson and more about them delivering politically motivated messages to their voter base. 

“From what I’ve seen, they’re not very substantive,” Rivero said of last week’s hearings. “Senators — and this is common throughout the years, often use their time to question just to make broader political messages. That appears that that’s been a significant part of these hearings.”

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