By Margaret Attridge, Ross O’Keefe, Chris Barylick and Ashkan Motamedi
Capital News Service — The Senate on Thursday confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the next associate justice on the Supreme Court and the first Black woman to sit on the nation’s highest court.
The historic 53-47 vote was bipartisan, with a trio of Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah – joining all the Senate Democrats in supporting Jackson.
While President Joe Biden and Jackson watched the proceedings from the White House’s Roosevelt Room, Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the confirmation vote.
“We’ve taken another step toward making our highest court reflect the diversity of America,” Biden tweeted after the vote. “She will be an incredible Justice, and I was honored to share this moment with her.”
An ebullient Harris told reporters as she left the United States Capitol Building: “It’s a statement that on our highest court in the land, we want to make sure that there is going to be full representation and the finest and brightest and the best. That’s what happened today. I’m very proud.”
Biden nominated Jackson on Feb. 25 after Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announced his plans to retire at the end of the current session, which is expected to be in June or early July. Jackson’s confirmation fulfilled a Biden campaign promise that he would appoint the first Black woman to the Supreme Court.
Jackson currently serves as a federal judge on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She previously served as a district judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, the vice-chair of the United States Sentencing Commission, and was a clerk for Breyer. She will also be the first public defender to be appointed to the Supreme Court.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said in a press conference after the vote that Jackson’s confirmation was “a long, hard road as we tried to get to greater equality, less bigotry in America.”
He added: “It was often steps backward. But when you have a day like this, it inspires you to keep moving forward. There’s no better group to have us move forward than this group.”
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, acknowledged the Republican senators that voted along with the Democrats.
“I can’t say enough for my three colleagues,” he said. “I held out the hope that at the last minute, several others would join them (and) realize they won’t be on the right side of history this morning. We’ve got to continue to work to build bipartisanship.”
An emotional Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, told reporters that in Jackson, “I see somebody extraordinarily well-qualified, somebody who makes the court look more like America. Frankly, I could say to my children and my grandchildren, ‘Be proud. Be proud of what you see.’”
Both of Maryland’s senators, Democrats Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, voted for Jackson. After the vote, Van Hollen tweeted: “With today’s vote, both Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson and the Senate made history…Like Marylander Thurgood Marshall before her, Judge Jackson is a trailblazer, & I know she will uphold equal justice under the law.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has repeatedly attacked Jackson and those who supported her. In Thursday floor remarks, McConnell said the soon-to-be-justice had two choices: “Either satisfy her radical fan club or help preserve the judiciary that Americans need.”
McConnell added, “I’m afraid the nominee’s record tells us which is likely. But I hope Judge Jackson proves me wrong.”
Before the final vote itself, the Senate public galleries overlooking the floor filled with members of the Congressional Black Caucus. In an earlier Twitter post, some caucus members in black t-shirts reading “Black Women are Supreme.”
The final tally was delayed nearly 25 minutes by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, who did not join the full Senate chamber for the vote. Finally, the casually-dressed Paul (whose attire violated Senate floor rules) peeked out from a door to give his thumbs-down “no” vote.
After Harris announced the vote, the senators supporting Jackson and people in the gallery stood and flooded the chamber with approximately 30 seconds of thunderous applause.
Most Republicans walked out during the applause, solemn-faced.
On Friday, Biden and Harris are scheduled to host a celebratory event with Jackson at the White House.
Capital News Service reporter Tatyana Monnay contributed to this story.