ORONO, Maine — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins called President Joe Biden’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court “impressive” on Friday after a call with the Democratic president who is trying to lock down her vote.
The White House announced Friday morning that Biden intended to nominate Ketanji Brown Jackson, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and former public defender. She will be the first black woman nominated to serve on the Supreme Court.
Democrats do not need Collins’ vote to advance Jackson, but she has long been seen as perhaps the Senate Republican most likely to vote for any Biden nominee. She was one of three members of her party who backed Jackson for her current position last year. The judge was also unanimously selected for a lower-court position in 2012.
After an event at the University of Maine in Orono on Friday, Collins noted those earlier votes. While she said her standard for a Supreme Court nominee is higher, she complimented the judge and told reporters Biden had notified her of the pick in a call early Friday morning.
“She has impressive academic credentials. She is an experienced judge,” Collins said of Jackson. “I will wait to make a decision until I have observed her hearing, read her decisions and major writings, and most important of all is the meeting I will have with her in my office.”
Her words were in stark contrast to some other Republicans on Friday. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who also confirmed Jackson to the appeals court, criticized her nomination, saying nominating Jackson meant Biden was caving to the “radical Left.”
Democrats can confirm a Supreme Court justice without Republican support, but they likely want Collins’ vote again to give the confirmation an air of bipartisanship. Collins said last month that U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, who chairs the committee overseeing nominations, reached out to her within hours of the news of Breyer’s retirement to discuss a timeline and ensure she could interview the eventual nominee.
Collins, who has been in the Senate since 1997, has voted to confirm six of the seven Supreme Court justices nominated during her tenure, including three under former President Barack Obama. She voted against confirming Justice Amy Coney Barrett in 2020, although she cited procedural reasons ahead of that presidential election rather than issues with Barrett herself.
The Maine senator has singled Biden out for criticism in the lead-up to the pick. While she has said she would welcome the first Black woman on the high court, she has called the president’s handling of the nomination “clumsy” and said the explicit pledge to nominate a Black woman was overly political.
But she said Friday that she hoped for a “dignified” vetting of the president’s nominee that was done with “courtesy and civility.”
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who caucuses with Democrats, said Friday that he thought Jackson “has a wide variety of experiences that seem to make her well-qualified” to serve on the high court. He told reporters in Orono that he would wait until after hearing her answers to further questions to determine how he will vote.
“As with all nominations, I start with an open mind,” he said.