Last year, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) opposed President Joe Biden’s nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to a seat on the D.C. federal appeals court.
On Monday, the Utah Republican voted to advance Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court, a rare reversal in the deeply divided Senate, where ugly confirmation fights over the highest court in the land are quickly becoming the norm.
On Thursday, Brown Jackson was confirmed as the first Black female justice.
“In her previous confirmation vote, I had concerns about whether or not she was in the mainstream,” Romney told reporters on Tuesday. “And having spent time with her personally and reviewing her testimony before Congress [I] became convinced that she is in the mainstream.”
In announcing his support for Jackson, which came as a bit of a surprise, Romney called the judge a “well-qualified jurist” and a “person of honor” even though he said they may differ on ideological grounds.
For Romney and the other two Republicans backing Jackson—Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—Jackson’s nomination is an opportunity to dial down some of the sharp rhetoric that has come to define high court confirmations and restore public confidence in the institution.
“We’re following a different standard today than we followed 20 years ago, when individuals are judged based upon simply their qualifications, and now we’re looking to determine something about other matters,” Romney said Tuesday, describing the Senate confirmation process.
Fears are growing that a president may never again get their Supreme Court nominee confirmed if their party doesn’t control the Senate. Republicans denied President Barack Obama a chance to fill a Supreme Court seat in 2016, refusing to even give his nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was noncommittal about the possibility of a 2023 Supreme Court confirmation hearing, the third year of Biden’s presidency, if the GOP retakes control of the chamber.
“This milestone should have happened generations ago — generations ago — but we are always trotting on a path towards a more perfect union,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. “America today is taking a giant step towards making our union more perfect.”
Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the Senate vote, and was the first Black woman to hold that post.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) was the only Black senator to participate in Jackson’s hearings.
“Her grace was evident from the jump, and I don’t think you can diminish that,” he said. “Nothing can steal the joy of this moment.”