WASHINGTON – Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson has taken the first step toward confirmation in the Senate, answering written questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee as she prepares to meet with senators this week.
President Joe Biden is expected to urge her swift confirmation in his State of the Union address Tuesday evening, and Jackson will meet with Senate leaders on Capitol Hill Wednesday, getting the process off to a quick start. Senate Democrats are hoping they can vote on her confirmation to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer by mid-April.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin said Monday the committee would be able to move forward with scheduling hearings, expected mid-March, once they received Jackson's questionnaire. The committee sent the questionnaire on Friday and she returned it by Tuesday.
“I think we can reach that possibility,” Durbin said of confirming Jackson by mid-April.
If confirmed, Jackson would be the first Black female justice in the court’s more than 200-year history. Breyer has said he won’t leave the bench until this summer, when the court’s session is over, but Democrats are taking no chances in case there is any shift in their narrow 50-50 majority. Vice President Kamala Harris provides the deciding vote.
In the 149-page questionnaire, Jackson reveals that she was first contacted by the White House Jan. 30, three days after Breyer announced his retirement. Jackson, who was confirmed last year as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, had long been seen as Biden’s top candidate for the job, which he had promised would go to a Black woman.
Jackson met with Vice President Kamala Harris in a video call on Feb. 11 and then interviewed with Biden at the White House on Feb. 14, she says in the questionnaire. Biden called and offered her the nomination on Feb. 24, a day before he made his decision public.
The questionnaire provides the committee with a record of every job she has held and the decisions she has made in her nine years as a federal judge, as well as any recusals and potential conflicts of interest. Senators and staff will be able to vet that information much more quickly than they would have for other candidates since they just considered her last year for her current position on the appeals court. Prior to that, Jackson was a federal district court judge in Washington.
Jackson's list of her most significant cases contains only one new entry from the appeals court, describing an opinion she wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel that came out in favor of labor unions.
On Wednesday, Jackson will begin the customary meetings on Capitol Hill, where she'll make the rounds to members of both parties. She is scheduled to meet first with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Judiciary panel.
Durbin said Monday he’s still hoping to win some GOP votes for her confirmation, even though many Republicans have expressed skepticism that Jackson is too liberal. Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina were the only Republicans who voted to confirm Jackson to the appeals court last year.
While Collins has appeared open to voting for Jackson again, Murkowski said in a statement last week that her previous vote did not mean she would be supportive this time.
Graham had pushed for a different candidate from his home state, federal district court Judge J. Michelle Childs, and expressed disappointment that she was not Biden’s pick.