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GOP's Susan Collins to vote for Ketanji Brown Jackson for Supreme Court

The pledge gives President Joe Biden's nominee her first GOP vote.

March 30, 2022, 12:22 PM

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine plans to support the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court, the nominee's first GOP supporter.

"After reviewing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's extensive record, watching much of her hearing testimony, and meeting with her twice in person, I have concluded that she possesses the experience, qualifications, and integrity to serve as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court. I will, therefore, vote to confirm her to this position," Collins, a moderate Republican often seen as a swing vote for judicial nominations, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Collins met for a second time with Jackson on Tuesday night, and after more than an hour behind closed doors, the senator emerged calling the meeting "useful and productive," adding that Jackson "provided clarification on some of the issues," and indicating that some of those included the judge's sentencing of child porn offenders and her representation -- as a federal public defender -- of Guantanamo Bay detainees.

PHOTO: Sen. Susan Collins meets with Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 8, 2022.
Sen. Susan Collins meets with Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 8, 2022.
Carolyn Kaster/AP

"In my meetings with Judge Jackson, we discussed in depth several issues that were raised in her hearing. Sometimes I agreed with her; sometimes I did not," continued Collins. "And just as I have disagreed with some of her decisions to date, I have no doubt that, if Judge Jackson is confirmed, I will not agree with every vote that she casts as a Justice. That alone, however, is not disqualifying."

The announcement Wednesday was a crucial win for President Joe Biden, who set a goal from the outset of securing bipartisan support for his nominee, who would be the first Black woman to take a seat on the high court.

The New York Times was the first to report the development.

Some Republicans, at the more than 23 hours of hearings last week, took issue with the nominee accusing President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of "war crimes" as she challenged in a legal brief the detention of some terrorism suspects post-Sept. 11, but Jackson said at the time she was naming the two men in their official capacity, not personally. Later, in similar detention challenges, those documents would bear the name of President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Republicans, led by Sen Josh Hawley, R-Mo., also challenged Jackson's sentencing of child porn offenders in some of the most explosive allegations of the proceedings. A handful of offenders received sentences below federal guidelines from Jackson, but the prison terms were above those recommended by the probation officer, putting her in the mainstream of judicial action. One case, in particular, though, saw a Jackson sentence below that recommended by the probation officer.

The White House team working on Jackson's nomination has indicated they hope to secure the support of more Republicans, but senior GOP aides have indicated they would be surprised if that support was more than the judge received for her past nominations. Collins supported Jackson more recently for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, along with Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks about status of the country's fight against COVID-19 in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, March 30, 2022.
President Joe Biden speaks about status of the country's fight against COVID-19 in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, March 30, 2022.
Patrick Semansky/AP

But this time around, it does not appear Jackson will get Graham's support, though the senator has said he will announce a final decision soon. The South Carolina Republican -- a senior member of the Judiciary Committee -- took issue with her over the "war crimes" designation, saying that was "a bridge too far" for him. He also laid into Jackson, in one fiery exchange, for not "throwing the book" at child pornography offenders.

Murkowski on Tuesday said she was more focused on the services honoring her late-Alaska colleague, Rep. Don Young. Murkowski also supported Jackson for the appeals court.

And all eyes are on Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who sat down with Jackson on Tuesday for an hour-long conversation.

Though he was seen as a possible Republican supporter, Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced Wednesday that he intends to vote against Jackson's confirmation.

PHOTO: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson listens to Senator Cory Booker speak on the third day of the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings on her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., March 23, 2022.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson listens to Senator Cory Booker speak on the third day of the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings on her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., March 23, 2022.
Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters

He noted the historic nature of her nomination and said he was "impressed" with her knowledge and composure during the hearings -- but he noted that he "still hold(s) my initial concerns that she may legislate from the bench instead of consistently following the Constitution as written."

"I am also disappointed that she is reluctant to take a firm public stand against a liberal, dark money court-packing scheme that represents a fundamental threat to the independence of the federal judiciary, even though other justices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer have done so," Tillis said in a statement.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, also on the Judiciary panel, has yet to announce how he will vote and has said he is still reviewing the hearings and support material.

The Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on the nomination Monday morning, putting Jackson on track to be confirmed by the end of next week. If she does not get the support of Grassley and deadlocks in committee, Democratic leadership can move to force the nomination out of committee and still get to a full Senate confirmation vote by week's end.

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