Why Republicans can oppose Ketanji Brown Jackson, but can’t stop her

McConnell’s ‘nuclear option’ ended GOP hopes of obstructing Biden’s pick

John Bowden
Monday 21 March 2022 15:26 GMT
McConnell says he is not opposed to Biden nominating a Black woman to the Supreme Court

President Joe Biden can thank Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for the smooth course to confirmation his first Supreme Court will likely see in the weeks ahead.

While the GOP senate leader has criticised Ketanji Brown Jackson for supposedly being soft on crime and a victory for the far left, it’s because of Mr McConnell’s own actions during the Trump administration that she will still likely be confirmed.

In 2017, Mr McConnell made his move as leader of the Senate to invoke the so-called “nuclear option”: a choice that eliminated the 60-vote majority threshold needed for a Supreme Court nominee to be confirmed.

The nominations now proceed with a simple 51-vote majority, and Republicans used that standard to confirm three justices on a mostly party-line basis.

This year, thanks to the narrow control over the Senate held by Democrats (51 votes, counting Vice President Kamala Harris), the Democrats can meet that threshold without the support of a single GOP senator.

There’s still the potential for hiccups. President Joe Biden will need to win the support of two senators in his own party who have shown a penchant for bucking his agenda, Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, and the president has also indicated that he believes his nominee will be able to attract bipartisan support. A party-line vote on her confirmation would damage Mr Biden’s image as a president capable of working with Republicans.

Other issues, like a sudden health crisis among the Democratic caucus, could also play an effect. That reality came all too near in recent weeks when Sen Ben Ray Lujan suffered a stroke and was out of the Senate for roughly a month. Even a single incapacitated member could throw Ms Jackson’s nomination into question.

Ms Jackson’s confirmation hearings begin this week; a number of key Republican senators including Sen Lindsey Graham have yet to indicate how they will vote, suggesting that the possibility she will be confirmed with bipartisan support remains alive.

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