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Susan Collins becomes first Republican to announce support for Supreme Court nominee Jackson

Ketanji Brown Jackson, Susan Collins
Carolyn Kaster
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson meets with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 8, 2022. Collins will vote to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson, giving Democrats at least one Republican vote and all but assuring that she will become the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine announced Wednesday that she will vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, becoming the first Republican in the U.S. Senate to signal support for the judge.

In a statement, Collins said that she had concluded from her two meetings with Jackson and the confirmation hearing that the nominee “possesses the experience, qualifications, and integrity” to serve on the Supreme Court as well as “sterling academic and professional credentials."

If confirmed, Jackson will be the first Black woman to be appointed to the nation’s highest court.

“In my meetings with Judge Jackson, we discussed in depth several issues that were raised in her hearing,” Collins said in the statement. “Sometimes I agreed with her; sometimes I did not. And just as I have disagreed with some of her decisions to date, I have no doubt that, if Judge Jackson is confirmed, I will not agree with every vote that she casts as a Justice. That alone, however, is not disqualifying. Indeed, that statement applies to all six Justices, nominated by both Republican and Democratic Presidents, whom I have voted to confirm.”

With the Senate split 50/50 between the Democratic and Republican caucuses, Collins’ support could allow Jackson to be confirmed by the Senate without Vice President Kamala Harris casting a tie-breaking vote, as long as the 48 Democrats and two independents support the nominee.

While numerous Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have already said they plan to oppose Jackson, other GOP senators could join Collins in supporting the nominee.

Jackson currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which is regarded as one of the most influential courts just below the Supreme Court. Collins along with two other Republicans — Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham — voted to confirm Jackson’s nomination to the federal appellate court.

Collins has been at the center of the two most recent nomination fights at the high court, both of which involved individuals nominated by former President Donald Trump. She voted to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh despite a relentless pressure campaign from groups opposed to the nominee. But she opposed the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett on procedural grounds because the seat became open just months before the 2020 presidential election, after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In her statement, Collins decried the politicization of the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominees.

“In my view, the role the Constitution clearly assigns to the Senate is to examine the experience, qualifications, and integrity of the nominee,” Collins said. “It is not to assess whether a nominee reflects the ideology of an individual Senator or would rule exactly as an individual Senator would want. It used to be common for Senators to give the President, regardless of political party, considerable deference in the choice of a nominee. One need look no further than the 98-0 vote Justice Scalia received in 1986 and the 96-3 vote Justice Ginsburg received in 1993. This approach served the Senate, the Court, and the Country well. It instilled confidence in the independence and the integrity of the judiciary and helped keep the Court above the political fray. And this is the approach that I plan to continue to use for Supreme Court nominations because it runs counter to the disturbing trend of politicizing the judicial nomination process.”

U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, is widely expected to also vote to confirm Jackson to the high court, although he has not formally announced his position.