If Ketanji Brown Jackson were to be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice on a strict party-line vote, she would have the same power and privileges as a unanimously confirmed colleague (not that this is a thing anymore; the last justice confirmed without any Senate opposition was Anthony Kennedy in 1988). But in the mythology of Washington, where even token bipartisanship is valued highly, she can now boast of one Republican supporter, Senator Susan Collins of Maine. With Democratic sometimes-heretic Joe Manchin already on board for Jackson, Collins’s announcement also eliminates any real possibility of the confirmation failing.
Collins has long been one of those “swing” votes in the Senate, generally, and on Supreme Court nominations, in particular. Her vote for Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 clinched his controversial confirmation, but she opposed Amy Coney Barrett on grounds that the nomination came too near the 2020 presidential election (it may be relevant that she was in the middle of a tough reelection contest at the time in a state Joe Biden carried by nine points).
As is the habit of self-styled centrist lawmakers of both parties these days, Collins served up the news of her support for Jackson with a healthy portion of sanctimony aimed at her more partisan colleagues, as Politico reports:
“In my view, the role the Constitution clearly assigns to the Senate is to examine the experience, qualifications, and integrity of the nominee,” she said. “It is not to assess whether a nominee reflects the ideology of an individual Senator or would rule exactly as an individual Senator would want.”
“This approach served the Senate, the Court, and the Country well,” Collins said. “This is the approach that I plan to continue to use for Supreme Court nominations because it runs counter to the disturbing trend of politicizing the judicial nomination process.”
Collins was one of three current Republican senators who voted to confirm Jackson to the D.C. Court of Appeals last year. One of them, Lindsey Graham, is unlikely to follow suit after his petulant temper tantrum over the South Carolina–born Judge Michelle Chiles failing to get the nomination and his snarling, ranting questioning of Jackson during the Judiciary Committee hearings last week. Another, Lisa Murkowski, who is facing a tough and complicated reelection campaign in Alaska this November, is still undecided. Jackson could theoretically win the vote of a retiring Republican senator or two, depending on whether they have post-retirement ideologically tribal plans. But put it in the books: Jackson will not join her soon-to-be-colleague Barrett in becoming the rare justice (at least since 1869) to receive not a single confirmation vote from the opposition party. She can take that to the Court to help assuage any bruises she has from the harsh treatment she was given during her confirmation hearings by Graham, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton, and Marsha Blackburn. At the age of 51, Justice Jackson will likely have many years to recover.
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- The Right to the Ballot and the Body
- Why Same-Sex Marriage May Not Be Doomed at the Supreme Court