The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court in a historic vote, making her the first black woman to sit on the nation's highest bench.
Her confirmation, by a vote of 53-47, was guaranteed when the most conservative members of the Democratic caucus, including Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, backed her in recent days. Although the Senate is split evenly at 50-50, Democrats control it thanks to holding the seat of the Senate president, which is Vice President Kamala Harris.
Jackson received support from all members of the Democratic caucus as well as from three Republicans: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Mitt Romney (Utah).
President Biden, a Democrat, nominated Jackson to fill the seat of Stephen Breyer, who is retiring. She is 51 and could serve for three decades or more in the lifetime position. Supreme Court justices are not bound by limits on their service.
Upon Harris' announcement of the vote total, Democrats in the Senate chamber broke out in applause. Jackson previously served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
President Biden called her "supremely qualified."
"Judge Jackson's confirmation was a historic moment for our nation," Biden said. "We've taken another step toward making our highest court reflect the diversity of America. She will be an incredible Justice, and I was honored to share this moment with her."
Judge Jackson’s confirmation was a historic moment for our nation. We’ve taken another step toward making our highest court reflect the diversity of America. She will be an incredible Justice, and I was honored to share this moment with her. pic.twitter.com/K8SAh25NL5— President Biden (@POTUS) April 7, 2022
Jackson won't formally take her seat until this summer when Breyer officially steps down. Jackson, like Breyer, is expected to lean left in her ideology, meaning the balance of the court will remain unchanged. President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, nominated Breyer to the court. Breyer voted with the liberal caucus over the past three decades, including voting to uphold legalized abortion.
Religious liberty groups expressed concern over her nomination.
"Although Judge Jackson conceded religious liberty is a 'fundamental right,' we remain unconvinced that she will protect that right based on her repeated refusals to specify her judicial philosophy or what she believes the free exercise of religion means," said Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of First Liberty Institute. "We hope that as a Supreme Court Justice, Judge Jackson will reject the urge to legislate from the bench, as her past record so far indicates, and instead will choose to faithfully defend our freedoms and interpret the Constitution according to its original meaning."
President Ronald Reagan nominated the first woman on the court, Sandra Day O'Connor, in 1981. President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated the first black justice on the court, Thurgood Marshall, in 1967.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Kevin Dietsch/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.