WASHINGTON — Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Wednesday she plans to vote to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, making her the first Republican to publicly back President Joe Biden's nominee and putting her one step closer to a lifetime appointment on the court.
In a statement, Collins said Jackson "possesses the experience, qualifications, and integrity to serve as an associate justice on the Supreme Court.
"Judge Jackson has sterling academic and professional credentials. She was a Supreme Court clerk, a public defender, a respected attorney, and a member of the Sentencing Commission," Collins said, noting Jackson's current service as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and, before that, as a federal district court judge for more than eight years.
The announcement by Collins, which came after a second meeting she held with Jackson on Tuesday for more than an hour, assures that the judge will have some measure of bipartisan support, which the White House and Democratic leaders have hoped for throughout the process. It also gives Democrats a cushion in case one of their members unexpectedly votes "no" or has to miss the vote.
Other closely-watched Republican prospects include Sen. Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, and Sen. Mitt Romney, of Utah. The Senate requires 50 votes to confirm a Supreme Court pick.
Romney met with Jackson on Tuesday and didn't announce a position, but said the pair "had a wide-ranging discussion about her experience and qualifications. Her dedication to public service and her family are obvious, and I enjoyed our meeting."
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said Wednesday he'll vote "no," explaining that he has "no doubt" Jackson is qualified for the job but that he still has "concerns that she may legislate from the bench instead of consistently following the Constitution as written."
In her statement, Collins said she doesn't agree with Jackson on all issues, but emphasized, "That alone, however, is not disqualifying."
Collins also said the Supreme Court confirmation process is "broken" because of how partisan it has become, moving away from what she believes to be the appropriate evaluation of a nominee's "experience, qualifications, and integrity." The process shouldn't be about assessing "whether a nominee reflects the ideology of an individual senator or would rule exactly as an individual senator would want," she said.
Collins added that previous justices were confirmed overwhelmingly by the Senate, which she said instilled confidence in the independence and integrity of the judiciary.
"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," she said.
While Collins does not sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which heard testimony from Jackson during her confirmation hearings last week, she voted in favor of Jackson's nomination to be a U.S. circuit judge for the District of Columbia in June 2021.
The Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on Jackson's nomination on Monday, and then the Senate plans to vote later in the week to confirm Jackson, with all 50 Democrats expected to back her. With Collins' support, Democrats likely won't need Vice President Kamala Harris to break a tie.
Some Democrats haven't announced their positions yet, including Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who voted to confirm Jackson to the D.C. Circuit court last year and called her Supreme Court nomination "a historic milestone for our country" when it was first announced last month.
Once confirmed, Jackson will become the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.