U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is signaling she is likely to vote to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, with her comments about President Joe Biden’s judicial nominee mirroring her praise of other justices she voted to confirm.
The Maine senator is one of only a few Republicans who has indicated openness to voting for Jackson, a former public defender and current appeals court judge who would become the first Black woman on the Supreme Court. A vote in the Senate could come next month.
Collins said that she will hold off on deciding whether to vote to confirm Jackson until after the Senate Judiciary Committee’s nomination hearings. But her praise of the appeals court judge this week echoed how she has talked about other nominees she went on to back.
The Maine senator has voted to confirm six of seven high court nominees since she took office in 1997. She voted against confirming Justice Amy Coney Barrett in 2020, although she never met with Barrett and cited the timing of the presidential election as the reason for her vote. Collins has a general pattern of confirming nominees of both parties, despite varying ideologies.
Collins praised Jackon’s credentials after meeting with her privately for roughly an hour-and-a-half on Tuesday, saying the nominee had “impressive” experience and showed “what I want to see in a judge.” She also noted that she did not agree with Jackson on every issue, noting the pair had discussed a decision the nominee had written as a district judge that was later overturned by a circuit court.
The senator has used meetings with judicial nominees in the past as a means of addressing potential areas of conflict. In public statements after the nominations of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, the Maine senator noted she had asked each about whether they had made any commitments to rule a particular way on certain issues. Each said no, Collins noted.
Collins faced intense pressure from abortion-rights advocates to oppose Kavanaugh, although her one-on-one meeting with the eventual justice came before he was publicly accused of sexual assault, an allegation he denied. After meeting with Kavanaugh, Collins noted that he had assured her that he viewed the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision as “settled” — a response to concerns about his opinion on abortion.
The Maine senator ultimately voted to confirm both Kavanaugh and Gorsuch in line with her party. Prior to that, she also voted to confirm Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, both of whom were nominated by former President Barack Obama, a Democrat.
When Sotomayor was nominated to the court in 2009, Collins was among the senators who expressed concern about comments she had made in several speeches suggesting a “wise Latina woman” might reach a better conclusion than a white man. The comment evoked an argument about identity politics that somewhat mirrors Collins’ recent criticism of Biden’s promise to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court.
But after meeting with Sotomayor, Collins told reporters that the pair had discussed those comments, with the judge saying she intended them to be “aspirational.” The Maine senator was ultimately one of nine Republicans to vote in favor of her confirmation.
Jackson’s confirmation hearings are likely to start the week of Mar. 21.