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47 GOP senators oppose giving Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson a floor vote

Even far-right nominee Robert Bork got a better treatment.

By Josh Israel - April 05, 2022
Ketanji Brown Jackson

Forty-seven Republican senators voted on Monday against even bringing President Joe Biden’s historic Supreme Court nomination to the floor for a vote. Despite this obstruction, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will likely become the first Black woman confirmed to be a Supreme Court justice later this week.

The Senate voted 53-47 to discharge Jackson’s nomination after the evenly divided Judiciary Committee deadlocked 11-11 along party lines.

Every Republican except Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Mitt Romney (UT) opposed allowing a floor vote; all 50 Democrats supported it.

Polling shows that Jackson is one of the most popular nominees for the high court in modern times, with about two-thirds of American adults supporting her confirmation. This comes despite weeks of false smears by GOP lawmakers and demands that she answer policy questions that will not be before the judicial branch.

As has been the case in recent Supreme Court confirmations, Senate Republicans spent a good deal of time complaining about the perceived mistreatment of past Republican presidents’ nominees. Still, they demonstrated the very same “embarrassing antics” they promised to keep out of Jackson’s confirmation hearings, demanding to know her religious faith, how often she goes to church, and whether she believes that “babies are racist.”

Republicans on the Judiciary Committee used Jackson’s hearings to try to relitigate the nominations of Judge Robert Bork (an extreme conservative nominated by Ronald Reagan, who was rejected 58-42 in 1987 after calling the Civil Rights Act’s public accommodations protections “unsurpassed ugliness“) and Justice Clarence Thomas (a right-wing jurist appointed by George H.W. Bush, confirmed 52-48 in 1991 despite multiple accusations against him of sexual harassment).

“It is only one side of the aisle — the Democratic aisle — that went so into the gutter with Judge Robert Bork that they invented a new verb, ‘to Bork’ someone,” argued Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on the first day of Jackson’s hearings, perhaps forgetting that six Republicans voted against him. “It is only one side of the aisle that with Justice Clarence Thomas was so reprehensible that as the president who nominated him, President George Herbert Walker Bush, wrote at the time, ‘What’s happening to Clarence Thomas is just plain horrible.'”

But while neither Bork nor Thomas had majority support on the Democratic-controlled Judiciary Committee at the time of their nominations, both were advanced to the floor and given full floor votes anyway.

Many of the same Republicans who now oppose even giving Jackson a floor vote argued that then-President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees were constitutionally entitled to an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.

“I think the president is entitled to an up-or-down  —  that is simple majority —  vote on nominations, both to his Cabinet and to the executive branch and also to the judiciary,” Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell argued in 2005.

“An up-or-down vote is a matter of fundamental fairness, and it is the Senate’s constitutional duty to act on each nomination,” Texas Sen. John Cornyn wrote in 2008. “It is also critically important to our judicial system and the proper functioning of our federal government to fill these positions. Senators have a right to vote for or against any nominee — but blocking votes on nominations is unacceptable.”

The full Senate is expected to vote to confirm Jackson on Thursday or Friday.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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