The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, cementing her place as the first black woman to be an associate justice on the court. Her confirmation is a victory for President Joe Biden, who had made a campaign promise to nominate a black woman to diversify the court.
Jackson, 51, was elevated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit after serving for nine years on the federal bench. She had previous experience as a district judge for the D.C. District Court, had served as vice chair of the United States Sentencing Commission for four years, and was also a federal public defender early in her career.
The Senate confirmed Jackson to the Supreme Court in a vote of 53-47, with three Republican senators voting with every Democrat in the majority. Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) supported Jackson’s confirmation, each saying that while they may not agree with every opinion she makes, they were confident she was well-qualified for the court.
“This is a wonderful day, a joyous day, an inspiring day — for the Senate, for the Supreme Court and for the United States of America,” an exuberant Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said after the vote, according to the Associated Press.
Jackson will replace Justice Stephen Breyer, who announced he would retire at the completion of the Supreme Court’s current term in January. Her ascendancy to the Supreme Court will not change the 6-3 balance with Republican-appointed justices holding the majority.
During her confirmation hearings, Jackson spoke passionately about her parents’ struggles with racial segregation before the Civil Rights era and said she would apply the law “without fear or favor” as a justice of the Supreme Court.
Republicans grilled Jackson on her record, focusing on what they said was a pattern of leniency in sentencing child pornography offenders. Jackson defended herself against accusations that she was too soft on criminals, declaring that “nothing could be further from the truth.” Democrats defended her as a qualified judge whose decisions were in the mainstream of her peers on the district court.
Jackson was with President Biden at the White House while the Senate voted.
“Judge Jackson’s confirmation was a historic moment for our nation. We’ve taken another step toward making our highest court reflect the diversity of America,” Biden said in a statement.
“She will be an incredible Justice, and I was honored to share this moment with her.”