Ketanji Brown Jackson made history Thursday when the Senate voted 53-47 to make her the first black female Supreme Court justice in the nation’s history.
Vice President Kamala Harris, herself a historic first as the first black and Asian American vice president, was present to chair the confirmation vote. Ms. Jackson’s rise to the nation’s highest court was a moment of celebration for many Democrats.
“Today, the administration of justice at the highest levels in our country looks a little more like what it says it is,” said Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, one of only three black senators who sat in the audience during her confirmation hearing The Independent.
Judge Jackson himself observed the proceedings along with President Joe Biden of the White House.
Jackson’s nomination is a fulfillment of President Biden’s promise during the 2020 campaign that he would nominate a black woman for the Supreme Court. That, in turn, led to his endorsement by James Clyburn, who won the House majority, which many saw as the trigger for him overwhelmingly winning the South Carolina primary that earned him the Democratic nomination for president.
Only three Republican senators — Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — joined each Democrat to vote for her confirmation. Many Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, such as senior member Chuck Grassley and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, rehashed their hurt feelings over previous confirmations, including Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and failed nominee Robert Bork.
Senate Democrats and the judge’s supporters erupted in applause when her confirmation was announced.
“It’s a new member of the Supreme Court and obviously symbolic and significant that we have another African American on the court,” Mr. Romney said The Independent.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she was confident there would be Republican senators who would vote for her.
“I’m very proud that three of our fellow Republicans, I’ve always been one to say we would have bipartisan support, are joining, and she’s handled this hearing so well she’ll be able to raise her voice head to come in. ” She said.
Others, like Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, have frequently grilled her for her record of convictions of people convicted of possessing child sex images. These Republicans attempted to portray her as a runaway who handed out lenient sentences that differed from those of other justice candidates.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky further delayed her confirmation by showing up late for the vote, even after Ms. Jackson’s confirmation reached 53 votes.
But Democrats were largely undeterred and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts cast the 51st vote to put Ms Jackson on trial.
“We will not let Republicans rain on this glorious day,” Ms. Warren said. “They couldn’t attack her for her qualifications or her legal temper, so they just made up some stuff. So let’s not let a bunch of made-up stuff get us down.”
Many members of the Congressional Black Caucus on the House side, including Florida’s Val Demings, Maryland’s Anthony Brown, New York’s Yvette Clarke and Missouri’s Cori Bush, attended the event.
For Ms. Bush, the moment was a balance of contradictions in America.
“It’s been way too long since we’ve had to wait for this,” she said The Independent. “It’s historic, it’s monumental, and there are so many black girls who show up and know, ‘One day this may be me.’ But not only that, I’m thinking that in 2022 we’re celebrating the first black woman before the US Supreme Court, the court that affects the whole country, it’s sad that this is the first, but I’m thrilled and emotional, so I don’t need a lot of words.”
Ms. Bush was also pleased with Ms. Jackson’s record as a former public defender.
“That’s what we need, someone from the grassroots,” she said. “Someone who understands that they are committed to working for the people who have the most needs.”
There are currently no black women serving in the United States Senate. Ms. Demings is conducting a long-shot run against Senator Marco Rubio this year.
“America did its best in Judge Brown Jackson, and all of us, regardless of our race or gender, should celebrate this moment,” Ms. Demings said. “She will bring a much-needed perspective to the country’s highest court, I believe.”
Ms. Demings also criticized the way Republicans treated Ms. Jackson during their confirmation hearings.
“And if America is doing its best, I would ask the senators who treated her like America’s worst to consider if that was her daughter sitting there,” she said. “If you’re bringing up America’s best, would you want your daughter to be treated like that?”
Similarly, former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley is running in North Carolina to replace retired Republican Senator Richard Burr.
Mr Warnock, who became the first black South Democrat to be elected when he won his Georgia race in January last year, said he was confident there would be black women senators in the future.
“We have some excellent black candidates,” he said. “I know them both.”