WASHINGTON — Maine Sen. Susan Collins said Wednesday she will vote to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson, giving Democrats at least one Republican vote and all but assuring that Jackson will become the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.
Collins said in a statement Tuesday that she met with Jackson a second time after four days of hearings last week and decided that “she possesses the experience, qualifications, and integrity to serve as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court.”
“I will, therefore, vote to confirm her to this position,” Collins said.
Her support gives Democrats at least a one-vote cushion in the 50-50 Senate and likely saves them from having to use Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote to confirm President Joe Biden's pick. It is expected that all 50 Democrats will support Jackson, though one notable moderate Democrat, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, hasn’t yet said how she will vote.
Jackson, who would replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, would be the third Black justice, after Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, and the sixth woman. She would also be the first former public defender on the court.
Collins was the most likely Republican to support Jackson, and she has a history of voting for Supreme Court nominees picked by presidents of both parties. The only nominee she's voted against since her election in the mid-1990s is Justice Amy Coney Barrett in 2020.
She said in the statement that she doesn't expect that she will always agree with Jackson's decisions.
“That alone, however, is not disqualifying,” Collins said. “Indeed, that statement applies to all six Justices, nominated by both Republican and Democratic Presidents, whom I have voted to confirm.”
It is unclear if any other GOP senators will vote for Jackson.
At a brief meeting on Monday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin set the committee vote for April 4 and praised Jackson’s answers during four days of hearings last week that often grew contentious. Republicans on the committee — led by several senators who are eyeing presidential runs — spent much of the hearings focused on her sentencing decisions in a handful of child pornography cases during her nine years as a federal judge in an effort to paint her as too lenient on the criminals.
Durbin criticized the Republican focus on the issue, saying the GOP senators asked “the toughest, meanest questions and then race to Twitter to see if somebody is tweeting.” In a Senate floor speech shortly afterward, Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn, one of the Republicans who asked Jackson repeatedly about the pornography cases, defended her colleagues, saying the questioning was “not an attack.”
The partisan spat threatened to divide Jackson’s confirmation down party lines as Republicans drew her nomination into a midterm campaign push to paint Democrats as soft on crime. Durbin, who like Biden wants a bipartisan vote, said he hopes other Republicans “will not be discouraged” by the back-and-forth when considering whether to support the historic nomination.
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the GOP leader, cited the Republicans’ concerns about Jackson's sentencing history, along with her support from liberal advocacy groups, in announcing Thursday that he “cannot and will not” back her.
The April 4 vote will set up a week of procedural maneuvers on the Senate floor aimed at securing Jackson’s confirmation by the end of the week. Durbin said he still has hope for some Republican votes by then.