WASHINGTON (CN) — The Senate Judiciary Committee split on party lines Monday over whether to advance Ketanji Brown Jackson's nomination to the Supreme Court to the full Senate, putting the confirmation process in a minor snarl that Democrats can still solve with yet more procedure.
Democrats and Republicans have equal control over the body, leaving it deadlocked early this evening over whether to recommend Jackson's confirmation to the Senate. This puts up an added hurdle on Jackson's journey to the highest court, but Democrats have the numbers to overcome the bump in the road with another vote that's expected late Monday night.
Tie votes in the committee on Supreme Court nominees are rare, though a tie on Jackson's nomination was predictable in the divided committee where considering judicial nominees have become an increasingly political affair.
In the past 50 years, the panel has only been deadlocked on whether to advance the nomination of one other prospective justice, Clarence Thomas. At the time of Thomas' nomination to the court, he faced allegations from Anita Hill of sexual harassment.
Democrats have lauded Jackson's résumé, which includes time as a federal public defender, an attorney in private practice, a federal district court judge, a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, and, most recently, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. She also served as a law clerk for Justice Stephen Breyer, whom she is set to replace on the court after his retirement this summer.
Jackson's prospective confirmation would make her the first Black woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice and the first justice with experience as a federal public defender. But her confirmation would not alter the ideological makeup of the court.
"These critical experiences bring a missing perspective to the court and it's truly unfortunate that some are trying to use them as reasons to vote against her. These baseless attacks are belied by the broad support for Judge Jackson's nomination from across the political spectrum," Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Dick Durbin said Monday, citing endorsements Jackson has garnered from law enforcement organizations and prosecutors.
She has the backing of Senate Democrats, but, as signaled by the committee's vote, her nomination does not have the same support from Senate Republicans. Senator Susan Collins of Maine is the only Republican so far who has voiced support for Jackson's nomination, though Senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have yet to announce their positions.
With the expected support of at least 51 senators, Jackson's confirmation is all but certain but it remains a tense and political journey as the finish line draws near.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican on the committee who previously voted to confirm Jackson to three other federal positions, came out against her ascendancy to the Supreme Court last week, accusing her of ruling in cases based on desired outcomes, not the law itself, and being overly lenient when handing down sentences in cases dealing with child pornography, an accusation that has repeatedly been disproven.
"I'll vote no, the first time I've ever voted against any Supreme Court nominee," Graham said Monday.
Graham accused Jackson of being an "activist to the core," a criticism traditionally lobbied against Democratic nominees to the bench and used to depict nominees as advocates who defy the text of law.
"If she wants the outcome, she's going to find it," Graham said.
He also criticized her representation of four Guantanamo Bay detainees during her time as a federal public defender. Jackson argued that her clients had been treated in violation of the Geneva Conventions during their detention, and all four were eventually released. None of them were convicted of crimes.