These two things are certain: Ketanji Brown Jackson will be on the US Supreme Court, and Republicans will be on the wrong side of history.
Not all Republicans — this time. Senator Susan Collins of Maine, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who sided with Democrats in a full-Senate vote on Monday to break the Senate Judiciary Committee’s tie to advance Jackson’s nomination, will be the only GOP senators to vote for her confirmation.
Jackson becoming the Supreme Court’s 116th associate justice is a foregone conclusion. Yet when those final votes are counted, the Biden administration will tout as a victory that the first Black woman on the nation’s highest court was confirmed by a bipartisan vote. While true by a fragile sliver, it’s an empty flex for President Biden and his fellow Democrats.
This isn’t a boost for bipartisanship. What it represents is evidence of a party so poisoned by its own ideologies that most Republicans, including every GOP member of the Judiciary Committee, denied their support to the most qualified Supreme Court nominee in decades.
This also puts Republicans out of touch with most Americans.
Jackson, a longtime federal judge, is one of the most popular Supreme Court nominees in recent history. In a Gallup poll, 58 percent said the Senate should vote for her confirmation. After Republicans turned Jackson’s hearing last week into a conspiracy theory Twitter thread, 72 percent in a Marquette Law School national survey said they would vote for her if they were senators, up from 64 percent.
Even more telling, a Quinnipiac University poll found that 52 percent disapproved of Republicans’ shameless behavior toward Jackson during her confirmation hearing. Perhaps playing to the cheapest seats in their base might not garner the political payoff Republicans anticipated.
So whatever you call this, don’t call it bipartisanship. That lets craven Republicans off the hook. They should instead be tarred by their own hypocrisy. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said there’s “no question” that Jackson is qualified for the high court, but he won’t vote to put her there. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska praised Jackson’s “impeccable credentials and a deep knowledge of the law,” but he opposes her confirmation.
Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri twisted himself into knots Sunday when he said he would not support Jackson but “would be joining others in understanding the importance of this moment.” It’s a moment to which Blunt and most of his GOP Senate colleagues can make no claim, because they embraced rank partisanship, racism, and the QAnon lunacies they invited into their party. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, the repellent Republican extremist from Georgia, even called Collins, Murkowski, and Romney “pro-pedophile” for supporting Jackson.
That three Republicans exited the GOP clown car long enough to back Jackson’s historic nomination isn’t a sign that their party is climbing out of its bottomless depths. In any case, their political risk is mitigated by the fact that Jackson’s confirmation won’t change the court’s ideological makeup. Conservatives hold a 6-3 advantage now and will continue to do so when Jackson takes outgoing Justice Stephen Breyer’s seat on the bench.
That shred of so-called bipartisanship probably would have evaporated if it were a conservative justice retiring. That’s something Biden should keep in mind.
Bipartisanship matters deeply to this president. As a presidential candidate and nominee, Biden touted his ability to find common cause with Republicans. He believed his presidency would liberate the GOP from Donald Trump’s insidious thrall. But Biden ignored how his same Republican friends fomented the white demagoguery that became the scaffolding of Trump’s political strategy, or how quickly Trump’s GOP critics morphed into loyalists. It were as if Biden hadn’t witnessed up close as vice president how Republicans stole a Supreme Court seat by refusing to give Merrick Garland, nominated by Barack Obama, a confirmation hearing.
And that could happen again. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of the most egregious offenders during Jackson’s hearing, said if Republicans controlled the Senate, Jackson “would not have been before this committee.” That’s a warning Biden needs to hear and heed.
By definition, bipartisanship is “cooperation, agreement, and compromise between two political parties that usually oppose each other’s policies.” Republicans offered no such thing and neither history nor Biden should give them a pass for their many transgressions. The only victory worthy of headlines and celebration is that a Black woman whose exemplary credentials Republicans tried and failed to impugn will soon be on the Supreme Court.