Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) will reportedly vote to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS), giving Jackson at least one Republican vote.
Collins told The New York Times that after a March 29 meeting with Jackson, President Joe Biden’s pick to replace outgoing Justice Stephen Breyer, her concerns were alleviated and that she’ll give Jackson her support. She is the only Republican to commit to voting for Jackson.
“I have decided to support the confirmation of Judge Jackson to be a member of the Supreme Court,” she said. “In recent years, senators on both sides of the aisle have gotten away from what I perceive to be the appropriate process for evaluating judicial nominees.
“In my view, the role under the Constitution assigned to the Senate is to look at the credentials, experience, and qualifications of the nominee. It is not to assess whether a nominee reflects the individual ideology of a senator or would vote exactly as an individual senator would want.
“There can be no question that she is qualified to be a Supreme Court justice.”
Collins was one of only three Republicans in the Senate who supported Jackson’s ascent to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in June 2021. Under President Donald Trump, Collins supported the confirmations of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, but voted against confirming Justice Amy Coney Barrett because of the proximity of the 2020 election.
Over the course of four days of contentious hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, Republican senators grilled Jackson for her allegedly “soft-on-crime” attitude toward criminals, accused her of being too lenient in her sentencing of child porn offenders, and pushed her to expand on her judicial philosophy.
The last point was an especially contentious one among Republicans, who generally lean in favor of limited interpretations of the Constitution, such as originalism, which calls for the Constitution to be interpreted in the way that the Founders intended, and textualism, which calls for a fairly narrow reading of the text of the document itself.
Jackson erred away from articulating such a judicial philosophy, saying instead that she has a “methodology” of litigation that could vary on a case-by-case basis.
Out of all potential swing voters on the Republican side of the aisle, Collins was widely regarded as the one most likely to break away from her party and vote in favor of Jackson. While observers have mused on the possibility of other potential defectors, Collins has thus far been the only one to commit resolutely to voting for Jackson.
Another potential swing vote is Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who has shown himself to be willing to break with Republicans in the past over various issues.
On March 29, Romney, who opposed Jackson’s confirmation to the D.C. Circuit Appeals Court last summer, said he has undertaken “a much deeper dive” into Jackson’s record ahead of the Senate floor vote, which will take place sometime after April 4.
“In this case, as well, she’s gone into much more depth talking about her judicial philosophy than she had before. And we’re, of course, looking at her judicial record, as a district judge and as an appellate judge, in far more depth than we had before,” Romney said, referencing a common Republican concern over Jackson’s confirmation.
“I think in the final analysis, we’ll each be able to make our decision based upon our personal interviews with Judge Jackson and with the results that come from these hearings.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of three Republicans who supported Jackson’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit last summer, has also refrained from committing either way, but he has indicated that he’ll vote against Jackson’s SCOTUS confirmation.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), considered the second most likely swing vote by some, has also remained uncommitted, but has suggested that Jackson’s track record on child pornography cases is “worth looking into.”
“If it really is a pattern, that’s something I think we should be paying attention to,” Murkowski said. “If it’s an issue of one-offs that have been hyped into more than that, I think that’s something we need to try to discern.”
On the Democrats’ side of the aisle, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was considered the most likely to vote against Jackson’s confirmation. However, the West Virginia Democrat confirmed on March 25 that he’ll support Jackson.
With Collins’ commitment to vote for the nominee, Jackson is on track to receive a thinly-bipartisan confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Because Judiciary Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) requested that the committee vote on Jackson be held for one week, she won’t head to the floor until April 4 at the earliest.