WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ketanji Brown Jackson will become the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.
With Vice President Kamala Harris presiding over the Senate, senators voted 53-47 to confirm Jackson's nomination on Thursday. Jackson watched the vote come in with President Joe Biden at the White House.
Every Democrat and three Republicans supported Jackson's nomination. The three Republican senators included Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah.
“As an African American young lady, growing up as a child, you didn’t see, I didn’t see that many people that looked like me able to hold some of these seats that were on TV as a matter of fact, that even in the classrooms teaching us," said Yvette Lewis, President of the NAACP Hillsborough County Branch. "For a young lady, a baby, a little girl, a toddler to even look at the TV and to see someone with that beautiful dark skin looks like them, it says that I too one day can be that person. There is hope for within me, and if I just keep on keeping on, then I can get there. Then, I will be there.”
President Biden's nominated Jackson to replace Justice Stephen Breyer when he retires this summer, after the end of the court’s current term.
Jackson faced a contentious confirmation process. During days of questioning, Republicans tried to paint her as soft on crime. They accused her of issuing lenient sentences in child exploitation cases when she was the judge in the case.
Jackson remained calm throughout the process and explained the legal rationale for her sentencing decisions.
Romney rejected his party's characterization of Jackson. He said her judicial approach is “within the mainstream.”
Ciara Torres-Spelliscy is a Professor of Law at Stetson University College of law. She points out the importance of diversity on the courts.
"For so long, only white men served on the Supreme Court, and that impacted their opinions, whether it was opinions about discrimination on the basis of gender, discrimination on the basis of race," said Torres-Spelliscy. "It really mattered whether there were diverse voices being heard on the courts, and this will be a new opportunity for the court to reflect the diversity that’s in our nation."
The balance of the court is not changed with Jackson's appointment. She will become one of three justices nominated by a Democratic president. The six other justices were nominated by Republican presidents.
At 51 years old, Jackson is poised to remain on the bench for decades.