The outcome was never really in doubt, but that didn’t make today’s Supreme Court confirmation vote on the Senate floor any less significant. NBC News reported this afternoon:
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first Black woman to be elevated to the Supreme Court when the Democratic-controlled Senate on Thursday confirmed President Joe Biden’s pick. The final vote was 53 to 47, with all 50 Democratic caucus members supporting Jackson, joined by Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mitt Romney of Utah.
It’s an inspiring and breakthrough moment for a great many reasons, and I hope readers will indulge me as I share a variety of notes without any meaningful transition:
* After Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination, some on the right complained that President Joe Biden should’ve picked the best person for the job, regardless of race or gender. But if the last several weeks have proven anything, it’s that Jackson was the best person for the job, regardless of race or gender. Her intellect, temperament, experience, character, dignity, and grace under fire leaves no doubt that the president made the right call.
* Though the era of one-sided Supreme Court confirmation votes is obviously long gone, it’s worth appreciating the fact that Jackson’s 53-member majority was larger than the majorities that confirmed the last two justices: Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed with 50 votes, while Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed with 52 votes.
* Ordinarily, when Vice President Kamala Harris presides over the Senate, she’s there to break a tie. This afternoon, however, the California Democrat presided over the chamber to help reinforce the history: The first Black woman elected to national office in the United States led the Senate as it confirmed the first Black woman to serve as Supreme Court justice.
* On a related note, it seemed fitting that the 50th vote for Jackson’s confirmation was cast by Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, the pastor of the Rev. Martin Luther King’s church in Atlanta.
* Speaking of Georgia, in the initial round of balloting in then-Sen. David Perdue’s re-election race, the Republican came out ahead, but he fell just shy of the 50 percent threshold. In Georgia, that pushed him into a runoff election, which he narrowly lost to Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff. If the incumbent had performed just 0.3 percent better in the first round — roughly 88,000 votes — Perdue would’ve won another term and avoided the runoff race. It also likely would’ve prevented today’s vote from happening.
* Jackson will not become a justice right away. She’s succeeding Justice Stephen Breyer, who’s still on the bench, and whose retirement will begin once the court’s current term ends over the summer. At that point, Jackson will officially join the nation’s highest court as an associate justice.
* On Feb. 28, as the confirmation process got underway, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) conceded that he was “very concerned” about Republicans unleashing ugly attacks on the nominee. His fears soon appeared prescient, as too many GOP senators tried to slander her in nauseating fashion.
* I continue to believe there was a more sensible approach for the Republican minority. As we recently discussed, this was a legal dynamic in which a center-left nominee would replace a center-left justice. She was all but certain to be confirmed anyway, whether the GOP minority approved or not.
Senate Republicans could look good voting for the first Black woman to serve on the high court, and in the process, the party could gain some shred of credibility in advance of the next time there’s a vacancy during a Democratic presidency.
But, no. Senate Republicans instead came up with transparently foolish excuses to justify their partisan opposition to Jackson, after confirmation hearings in which GOP senators embarrassed themselves, earning widespread public disapproval.
History will shine a light on what happened today, and it will not be a flattering light for one side of the political divide.