WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden's Supreme Court pick, Ketanji Brown Jackson, has begun preparing for a high-stakes confirmation battle to become the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.
Biden's choice, announced Friday, was met with effusive praise by Democratic leaders and progressives. The decision faced pushback from conservative advocates and some skepticism from Republicans, although many kept the door open to backing Jackson, a former public defender who is a judge on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
The process now moves over to the 50-50 Senate, where Democrats' top priority is to keep all their members together for Jackson. That would be enough to confirm her — Republicans abolished the 60-vote filibuster rule for Supreme Court nominations in 2017 — although the White House and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin, D-Ill., say their goal is to also win Republican votes.
Biden nominates Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to Supreme CourtFeb. 26, 202201:42
Durbin, who wants to complete the process by April 9, said the committee has sent the White House the traditional questionnaire for a Supreme Court nominee and expects a reply "very shortly." After that, he said, Jackson will meet with senators "as soon as possible."
"We have an advantage in this case because this judge, Ketanji Brown Jackson, has been before the committee as recently as last year," Durbin said Sunday on CNN, vowing to work hard to achieve a "united and strong" caucus and draw some GOP votes.
Jackson's preparations with White House officials began over the weekend, and she will begin visits to Capitol Hill this week, said a White House official familiar with her plans. Former Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., has been enlisted to help steer her through the confirmation process.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said Jackson's nomination is "historic" and that he is open to supporting her, even though he voted against confirming her to the D.C. Circuit.
"She deserves a very careful look, a very deep dive, and I’ll provide fresh eyes to that evaluation," he said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union." "Hopefully I’ll be able to support her in the final analysis."
After Jackson answers written questions and meets with senators, the Judiciary Committee will put her on the hot seat for a hearing. Then, the full Senate will vote.
If she is confirmed, Jackson, 51, would replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, preserving the court’s 6-3 conservative balance. The seat would most likely remain in liberal hands for decades to come.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, also kept the door open to voting for Jackson, saying on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he will base his decision on her record, qualifications and adherence to the Constitution.
"I don't think it will be as partisan as we've seen in the past," he said, referring to the confirmation battle over Justice Brett Kavanaugh. "She'll be replacing another liberal on the court."
As a judge, Jackson has no apparent record of rulings, writings or speeches on the hot-button issues of abortion, gun rights or freedom of religion that drive tougher confirmation battles.
Centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he will evaluate Jackson by her "record, legal qualifications and judicial philosophy," adding, “I look forward to meeting with Judge Jackson before determining whether to provide my consent.”
Meanwhile, the ad wars have already begun.
The progressive organization Demand Justice has started airing a TV ad hailing Jackson as "one of the most qualified Supreme Court nominees ever" and noting past support she has received from senators in both parties.
Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative group that also doesn't disclose its donors, argued in an ad that Biden is being pressured by liberal "dark money" groups that want an "activist" judge. The group and some Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, noted that Jackson was the favorite of progressive advocates.
Along with all 50 Democratic-voting senators, three Senate Republicans voted to confirm Jackson to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in June: Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Graham expressed his dismay with the nomination after he advocated for U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs, who is from his home state. Collins voiced openness to the nomination, praising Jackson's "impressive academic and legal credentials." And Murkowski made it clear that her past support for Jackson “does not signal” how she would vote now, calling the Supreme Court “an incredibly high bar.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., appearing Sunday on Fox News, was asked about GOP claims that Jackson is "far left" and nominated as a political deliverable, which she described as "offensive."
Klobuchar called Jackson an "incredibly experienced woman" raised by parents who were public school teachers, saying she has "more experience as a judge than four of the people on the Supreme Court."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called Jackson "an outstanding nominee" who has been praised by associates.
"She’s brilliant. She sees the other side of things. She’s a caring, compassionate person," he told reporters at a news conference Sunday. "And I'm hopeful that a good number of Republicans will support her."
Schumer plans to meet with Jackson on Wednesday morning, his office said.