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The Senate Judiciary Committee is temporarily delaying a vote on the Supreme Court nomination of Judget Ketanji Brown Jackson to ensure all 11 Democrats are present, avoiding the risk of a negative committee recommendation on her nomination.
The committee is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans and none of the 11 Republicans on the panel are expected to support her nomination. That means Democrats are forced to wait until one of their own, Sen. Alex Padilla, arrives in Washington following a flight delay in Los Angeles. The California senator is expected to arrive Monday afternoon, paving the way for a vote before the end of the day.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Padilla was scheduled to fly overnight on Sunday but his flight was turned back to the gate due to a medical emergency.
“It could have happened to any one of us,” Durbin said. “There he was, stranded and unable to return until this morning.”
The vote on Jackson’s confirmation is expected to advance to the full Senate with an 11-11 deadlocked vote after Padilla arrives. The tie does not prevent a final vote on the Senate floor.
Democrats on the committee cite Jackson’s judgment as reasons for their support, writing that her “credentials, experience, and evenhanded approach to the administration of justice make her an outstanding nominee to the Supreme Court.”
Republicans may throw up procedural hurdles before the full chamber votes, but they do not have the votes to block Jackson’s confirmation, and she will likely remain on track to become the first Black woman to serve on the highest court in the country.
All 50 members of the Democratic caucus are expected to vote to confirm the nominee and one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, said she would vote yes, so Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court is all but confirmed.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said he hopes to hold a vote in the Senate before it begins its Easter recess on Friday.
Jackson, 51, served eight years as a federal trial court judge and last June was confirmed for a seat on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Prior to becoming a judge, Jackson worked as a public defender. If she confirmed, she would be the first Supreme Court justice since Thurgood to have represented indigent criminal defendant Marshalls.
Jackson’s confirmation would not change the court’s ideological balance, the 6-3 conservative majority, though. Jackson will join the court in the summer when Justice Stephen Breyer withdraws.
Voters broadly support Jackson’s confirmation. A poll from Marquette University Law School after her confirmation hearings showed that 66 percent of adults saying they would support her nomination, while 34% would n’t.
Jackson was seen as at least “somewhat qualified” by 88 percent of the public while 12 percent see her as “not qualified,” the poll found.
That popularity is in contrast to recently confirmed Supreme Court justices. Amy Coney Barrett, the last nominee confirmed to the high court, was supported by roughly half of Americans prior to her confirmation in 2020, according to Gallup polling. Support for Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch was in the mid-40s.
NPR’s Susan Davis contributed to this report.