The Senate on Thursday confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be a U.S. Supreme Court justice, approving in an historic move the first Black woman to serve on the nation’s highest court.
The nomination of Jackson, President Joe Biden’s pick to replace the retiring Stephen Breyer, passed the Senate in a 53-47 vote. Three Republicans had said they would join with the chamber’s 50 Democrats and independents who usually vote with that party in backing her confirmation, giving the nomination modest bipartisan support. Most Republicans, however, voted against her.
GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah were the three that voted to confirm Jackson, who currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The 51-year-old has also been a federal public defender and served as vice chair and commissioner on the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
“Ketanji Brown Jackson will be the first African-American woman ever to hold the title of justice,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat, in a floor speech just before the vote.
“Think about the impact that will have on our democracy. Untold billions of kids will open textbooks and see pictures of Justice Jackson among the highest ranks of our public figures. How many millions of kids in generations past could have benefited from such a role model?”
During her confirmation hearings, Republicans like Tom Cotton of Arkansas went after Jackson by asserting she has given lenient sentences in child-pornography cases — a charge she pushed back on. GOP senators also pressed her on cultural issues including critical race theory and teaching children about gender identity.
Democrats such as Cory Booker of New Jersey defended Jackson and her temperament. Booker, one of three Black senators, told her she’d sat with “grit and grace” through the hearings and called her a “great American.”
Jackson in the hearings said she worked to “stay in my lane” as a judge instead of a public policy-maker.
She reminded senators that the Constitution gives Congress the power to make laws and the courts the power to interpret them.
“Judges can’t make law; judges shouldn’t be policy makers,” she told senators during one of the sessions.
Jackson’s ascent to the high court will not alter its ideological makeup, as she replaces Breyer, a member of its liberal wing. The court currently has a 6-3 conservative majority. Breyer has said he is aiming to retire at the end of the court’s term, in late June or early July.
In nominating Jackson on Feb. 25, Biden said that, “for too long, our government, our courts haven’t looked like America.
“And I believe it’s time that we have a court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation with a nominee of extraordinary qualifications and that we inspire all young people to believe that they can one day serve their country at the highest level.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.