Democrats see ‘no reason to wait’ on Supreme Court vote

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson walks with former Senator Doug Jones of Alabama to a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, March 2, 2022, in Washington. If confirmed, Jackson would be the court's first Black female justice. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson began courting senators on Capitol Hill, making her case for confirmation in private meetings as Democrats worked to move her through the Senate within weeks. 

Senate Democrats concerned about their narrow 50-50 majority — Vice President Kamala Harris breaks the tie — announced Jackson’s hearings will begin March 21, just three weeks after President Joe Biden nominated her to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer. With a goal of an April confirmation, they are using Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation ahead of the 2020 presidential election as a model for Jackson. 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin called the quick confirmation process “a contemporary standard” after he met with Jackson in his office, while acknowledging that part of the reason for the rapid timeline was because of his party’s tenuous hold on the Senate. 

“There’s no reason to wait,” Durbin said, even though Breyer has said he won’t leave the bench until summer. He noted that the committee is also familiar with Jackson, who was just confirmed as an appeals court judge last year and had been confirmed by the Senate two times before that. 

There has been little pushback from Republicans, who confirmed Barrett and two other justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, while they controlled the Senate and President Donald Trump was in office. While few GOP senators are expected to vote for Jackson, and several have questioned whether she is too liberal, they are not spending much political energy to oppose her, so far. 

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a GOP member of the Judiciary panel, said, “I don’t think there’s a lot of mystery involved,” since Jackson isn’t new to the committee. 

As is tradition, the hearings this month will last four days, with opening statements March 21 and testimony and questioning the next two days. The fourth day will include testimony from outside witnesses. 

Biden spoke about Jackson and honored Breyer in his State of the Union speech last week, calling the nominee “one of our nation’s top legal minds, who will continue Justice Breyer’s legacy of excellence.” 

In addition to her time as a federal judge, Jackson, 51, once worked as one of Breyer’s law clerks and served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the agency that develops federal sentencing policy. 

Among Republicans, only Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina voted to confirm Jackson to the appeals court last year. While Collins has appeared open to voting for Jackson again, Murkowski said in a statement last week that her previous vote did not mean she would be supportive this time.