WASHINGTON (AP) — By announcing they will vote to confirm Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first black woman on the Supreme Court, three Republican senators are marking the historic moment by building their own legacies.
Each senator has one vote, and some choose to use theirs. The three Republican senators – Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney – broke with their party at critical times, despite the political risks of staying alone.
The three separately said they don’t expect to agree with all of Jackson’s bench decisions. President Joe Biden’s nominee to replace incumbent Justice Stephen Breyer will likely join the liberal wing of the High Court and is unlikely to tip his balance 6-3 towards the Conservatives. But the senators also indicated that the Harvard-educated judge is more than friendly, well-qualified and has the judicial temper to do the job. They said she deserved confirmation.
As other Republican senators line up to oppose Jackson, the backing of the three outliers gives Biden the bipartisan backing he sought for the historic pick, but may do little to shield them from a comeback. batons of party leaders and activists in their homes.
The Collins, Murkowski and Romney votes also serve as a rejection of the soft-on-crime attacks leveled at Jackson, with some exploiting dangerous conspiracy theories, reminiscent of senators’ racist arguments against the first black nominee for the court, Thurgood Marshall, there. half a century ago.
By voting for the “historic nomination,” Murkowski said it was worth not just the political risk, but the rejection of a Senate process that is “escalating and detaching from reality.”
Senator Dick Durbin: “I want to especially thank Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins. It was not an easy task to step up and vote for President Biden’s nominee. I respect them a lot for that. I want to thank them. https://t.co/WxzSQ0E84o pic.twitter.com/k2jHTnYpSi
— The Hill (@thehill) April 5, 2022
It’s a measure of the nation’s polarizing times that what could be seen as a milestone for the country – the first time in the court’s 233-year history it won’t be staffed primarily by white men – turned into another bitter grievance, political brawl.
Jackson’s nomination is progressing through procedural hurdles, including another vote on Tuesday, and is on track to be confirmed in the Senate by the end of the week.
With Democrats holding a narrow 50-50 majority in the chamber, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to break a tie, her vote likely won’t be needed.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski: “We’re at the point where it’s almost automatic, if it’s a president who’s not from my party who puts forward a candidate, I kind of have to barely think about it?…C it’s an awful process. It’s just awful. https://t.co/5houJF4Evy
— Zach C. Cohen (@Zachary_Cohen) April 5, 2022
“The confirmation of the nation’s first black woman to the highest court in the land will resonate for the rest of our nation’s history,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., said Tuesday, then that he was initiating the week-long procedural steps towards confirmation.
It was not always guaranteed that Jackson, who was confirmed by the Senate as a federal appeals judge just a year ago, would win the Republicans this time around.
A key Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who voted to confirm her to the lower court, led the opposition in Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on her nomination.
Along with other Republicans, Graham saw the political value of using Jackson’s hearing to garner complaints about the partisan treatment of former Supreme Court nominees in the Donald Trump era – from Brett Kavanaugh, who faced sexual assault charges during his high school years which he strenuously denied during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in 2018, to Amy Coney Barrett’s devout Catholic faith.
Senator Mitt Romney praised Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as “highly qualified, intelligent, [&] able’ candidate for the Supreme Court.
Romney is one of only 3 Republican senators, alongside Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who have signaled they will vote to confirm Jackson this week. pic.twitter.com/60vLNOM3Im
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) April 5, 2022
“If we were in charge, she wouldn’t have been before this committee,” Graham said of the Republican side ahead of Monday’s deadlocked panel vote. “You would have had someone more moderate than that.”
But personal political legacies can be just as strong a draw for senators, who like to think of themselves as one of 100 distinct voices in the Senate, despite pressure from party officials and others for a vote.
Collins, Murkowski and Romney have all proven over long careers in Republican Party politics that they can be independent brokers.
They have shaped brands at home and beyond, sometimes displaying a centrist streak but also being willing to pragmatically work down the aisle with Democrats rather than reflexive opposition.
Collins, who won re-election in 2020, has long gone her own way in voting for a president’s judicial nominees, regardless of the president’s White House party. A notable exception was Barrett, whose confirmation in October 2020 she said she could not support so close to the presidential election.
Collins expressed hope that the Senate can return to a place where there is bipartisan support for qualified Supreme Court nominees “because it is important for public confidence in the court.” The court is not meant to be a politicized institution.
I intend to vote in favor of confirming Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. My statement: pic.twitter.com/uGaxx8sJn5
— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) April 4, 2022
Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee and the only Republican senator to vote to convict Donald Trump in the former president’s two trials, has emerged as a new force in the Senate, helping broker bipartisan deals on issues such as infrastructure and COVID-19 aid. He declined to support Jackson just a year ago for the lower court, but once he had a chance to meet and review her case, he said she “more than meets the standard of ‘excellence and integrity’. He would be a candidate for re-election in 2024.
Murkowski faces perhaps the most precarious political climate as she faces re-election this year in Alaska where Republican Party leaders censured her for voting to impeach Trump in the aftermath of the January 6, 2021 insurrection on Capitol Hill. , among his other positions.
Alaska party leaders endorsed Kelly Tshibaka, a Trump-backed candidate, ahead of the August primary. Under the state’s new electoral system, the top four voters, regardless of party affiliation, will advance to the general election where voters will rank their choices.
Yet if anyone knows how to use political independence as political currency, it was Murkowski who in 2010 won an election campaign – voters had to write to Murkowski for the Senate – after losing the primary candidacy and the party backed a more conservative challenger. .
Murkowski shrugged off any political attacks that might come from his decision to back Jackson as worth the risk.
“Is there a safe place in this polarized time? ” she says.
Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick and Farnoush Amiri, video journalist Rick Gentilo and Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska, contributed to this report.
EDITOR’S NOTE: PA Chief Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro has covered Capitol Hill since 2010. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/LisaMascaro