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Ketanji Brown Jackson Confirmed as Next Supreme Court Justice. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 07, 2022 - 14:00   ET



CLERK: Mr. Tuberville.


CLERK: Mr. Tuberville, no.

Mr. Van Hollen.


CLERK: Mr. Van Hollen, aye.

Mr. Warner.


CLERK: Mr. Warner, aye.

Mr. Warnock.


CLERK: Mr. Warnock, aye.

Ms. Warren.


CLERK: Ms. Warren, aye.

Mr. Whitehouse.


CLERK: Mr. Whitehouse, aye. Mr. Wicker.


CLERK: Mr. Wicker, no.

Mr. Wyden.


CLERK: Mr. Wyden, aye.

Mr. Young.


CLERK: Mr. Young, no.

Mr. Graham.

Mr. Graham, no.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: All right, you are watching a historic moment here on Capitol Hill.

We're waiting for the final vote from the Senate to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first black woman to join that body.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: We just heard all the yeas and there called out. And three Republicans have crossed the aisle, basically, to vote with Democrats in terms of supporting her nomination.

BLACKWELL: In the 232 years of the Supreme Court, this will be, if she's confirmed, and she is expected to be, the first time in the history of the Supreme Court that white males will not make up the majority of the court.

We know that there are three Republicans who have joined with Democrats, Senators Murkowski, Collins and Romney. Final vote expect it to be -- of course, we are waiting for that to be announced -- 53- 47.

CAMEROTA: We just heard Lindsey Graham there opt not to vote for her, though he recently voted for her nomination on the federal bench.

But, obviously, it's an historic moment. It's a very historic moment. And it also, on a similar track, is just a huge moment for her and her credentials, and this incredibly sturdy glass ceiling that she has broken because of her qualifications.


You know, we can tell by the group in the room that it's more than just the 100 senators and staff.

Let's bring in chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju. We understand that there are people who are trying to witness this moment in the chamber, Manu.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, not just the people from the public, which is unusual, given the pandemic. The Senate has been closed off for the public for some time. It has reopened more recently and now filled with people from the outside wanting to witness history here, including the first lady -- the first gentleman -- second gentleman, Doug Emhoff, the husband of the vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris, who is presiding over this vote at the moment.

Now, the reason why they have not finalized this vote, they're waiting for one senator. We're told it's Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. He is expected, of course, to vote no. And once that he comes and votes, then this vote will be closed and, officially, she -- they will gavel it shut, Harris will announce the final tally, which is going to be 53-47.

And she will be confirmed after a process that began with the expectation that she would likely get confirmed, given that she had three Republican votes to confirm her to the lower court, the D.C. Circuit, just last year. She was able to maintain two of those three votes.

That was Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. She lost one of those supporters, Lindsey Graham, who ended up voting no. But she did pick up Senator Mitt Romney, who initially opposed her to the D.C. Circuit, but said, through his vetting, through his meetings with her, and through her performance at the hearings, that he was impressed by her, that she was within the judicial mainstream, in his view, and enough to win his support.

So, in a matter of moments, we will see this gavel come down. We will see people probably cheer, people who have come from around the country, people who have come from the public, and also some House members too who are the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who walked from the House side over to the Senate side, who are seated along the perimeter of the House -- the Senate floor to watch history unfold here, as just, in a matter of moments, it will be official.


The Senate will confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to be the first black woman ever to serve on the Supreme Court.

CAMEROTA: Let's bring in Joan Biskupic, who is our CNN legal analyst watching along with us.

Joan, do we know where Judge Jackson is right now?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: I'm sure she is glued to her television.

What happens for these things is, she will be with her supporters watching. She knows what the end will be. And we also know that, almost immediately, she will hear from many supporters, including Chief Justice John Roberts. He has made a practice of making sure he can call his new associate justice, which she will be once Stephen Breyer officially retires, as soon as the Senate vote is over.

Justice Elena Kagan said that, when she saw her final Senate votes back in 2010, he called her from Australia, even though the time difference certainly was a bit shocking to his system. And I expect that soon-to-be Justice Jackson will hear also from the chief.

As you know, Alisyn and Victor, she actually will not take her seat on the Supreme Court until she has officially been given the oath of office. And that won't come until Justice Breyer actually retires at the end of June. But this is the most important step because, under the Constitution, the president selects a candidate for the court, but it must be -- he or she must be confirmed by the Senate.

And as soon as we get that final tally in a matter of moments, there will be no looking back. She will be soon Justice Jackson. But that won't happen officially until likely the end of June or early July, Alisyn.

BLACKWELL: Natasha Alford, who is here with us, CNN political analyst, two elements of history here, of course, the confirmation vote for who is expected to be soon the first black woman on the Supreme Court, but also presiding over this is the first black woman to serve as vice president of this country.


When you think about the ways that black women show up for this democracy, we vote in overwhelming numbers, we lead protests, right, we stand up for social justice. Our labor built this country. We birthed children, right, for this country. And now we are represented in this way, as justices on the Supreme Court, as vice presidents, right, of the United States.

To me, this is just the beginning. Open those doors so that even more of us -- we are so qualified, right? We are so passionate. We care so deeply about this democracy -- can walk through those doors and make an impact and represent for this country.

CAMEROTA: Joan, to that point and to the point I was trying to make earlier about Judge Jackson's qualifications, how was she able to break this incredibly sturdy glass ceiling that had only white men on it for something like 170 years?

What are her special qualifications?

BISKUPIC: You know, it's interesting you say that, because this is what she's been doing through most of her 51 years of life.

She's -- certainly the achievements she had at Harvard, the achievement she had when she was first named to the trial court here in Washington, D.C., in 2013 by former President Barack Obama, when she was elevated last year by President Biden to the very prestigious federal appellate court here for the D.C. Circuit. She -- I think we saw a lot of what she has on display during those

Senate confirmation hearings. First of all, she's obviously incredibly smart and competent.

But she's got -- she's got a real sense of herself, that she could hold it together during a series of offensive questions and tough questions about her record, and never lost it, always was able to, frankly, be a very good advocate for herself, and with her credentials and her experience as a trial judge, which is relatively rare on the Supreme Court, and her experience as a federal public defender, which is definitely distinct for this generation.

We have to go all the way back to Thurgood Marshall, who was appointed in 1967, to have someone with significant criminal justice experience on the court defending defendants. So she has a real range.

As you know, Alisyn, she was -- she was born here in Washington, D.C., She grew up in Miami. She's very, very much a product of this Miami community and Palmetto High School, where she went to school and was on the debating team there.


She really represents a lot of Americans here.


BISKUPIC: Her parents were once excluded from many things because -- just because of the color of their skin. They came up and experienced the 1960s civil rights revolution.

And then here she is, as someone who was born in 1970, somebody who can really take advantage of the civil rights revolution of decades ago. As Senator Schumer said in his remarks, this is all part of a really important, impressive American story. And America -- American history is being made right there on the floor now.

And it's comparable to '67, when Thurgood Marshall became the first African-American justice, and then 1981, when Ronald Reagan chose Sandra Day O'Connor as the first female justice, and then bringing us up to 2009, when Sonia Sotomayor was the first Latina on the Supreme Court.

So a lot of history right here in this moment, Alisyn.


We have with us also Laura Coates, CNN senior legal analyst, and former prosecutor, also Gloria Borger, CNN chief political analyst.

I want to make sure that we explain what's happening here. Judge Jackson now has the 53 votes for confirmation. But there is one senator who has not yet cast the vote, the final vote here. That's Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, his vote expected to be no on confirmation. Gloria, to you; 71 days ago, when we first got the news that Justice Breyer would retire, it wasn't clear when we were having this conversation of how the White House would navigate this, how they would come up with a nominee that would satisfy all 50 Democratic senators. They obviously now have done it.


And I think that was job number one, because they knew that this could not be filibustered because of the change in the rules. And so all they needed was 50, plus one, which would be the vice president.

And I think that wasn't easy. But I think Ketanji Brown Jackson, as Joan was just saying, was a known quantity, somebody who has been respected for an awfully long time, who has worked her way up the ranks.

As I look at this picture, though, the thing that strikes me is whether we're watching a different kind of history here also, and not one to applaud, and that is that whether we're ever going to see a Supreme Court justice approved when a president is of the different party than the United States Senate.

Biden has the advantage here. He's got Democrats, a very slight majority, 50. That's it. But if you say -- and Mitch McConnell has been hinting very strongly at this -- should Republicans take over the Senate, Biden is president, what would they do? Would they allow a nominee that they don't like for some reason to be brought to the floor?

That is what happened with Merrick Garland, you will recall, with Barack -- when Barack Obama was president. The excuse then was, it was too close to the election. And so we're now starting to see and ask questions about, in this polarized world in which we live, can a president of one party get a nominee through a Senate that is run by a different party?

That's a big question out there.

CAMEROTA: It's a pretty chilling question, actually, to think that a president wouldn't be able to nominate a Supreme Court nominee because of all the obstruction.

But let's bring in Laura Coates.

Laura, I know -- I mean, we have had so many conversations with you about what her qualifications are, the historical moment that we're living in. What are your thoughts?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I sincerely hope that Senator Rand Paul has a good excuse to hold up the confirmation of historic -- history happening right now.

Really, it's about the confirmation to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. And the idea that he's the one senator who has not shown up, I hope he has a good excuse. However, I will say I'm really emotional thinking about this moment in

history. I mean, I turned to my daughter multiple times, and -- who was watching this all unfold, wondering why this was of such significance to me. And I said to her, my beautiful daughter, don't worry. You are going to hear no a lot more than 47 times in your life. And, in the end, they will still have to put respect on your name. And they may even have to call you justice.

The idea and every single time I heard a no and I heard the way that the parliamentarian was counting the -- counting the word and saying, and it almost had a judgment mental quality that made me laugh, as, this person has said no, this person has said no.


And it reminded me of all the moments in history that black women have been told no, have been told to get to the back of the line, whether it's the feminist movement, suffragist movement, talking about it's not yet your time to be counted in full.

Well, it seems that, today, 116 is the new number one. And I'm extraordinarily proud of her composure. I'm extraordinarily proud that she was able to endure that which many could not, the asinine questions she was asked by many members of the Republican Party at her confirmation hearing, hoping to have an audience of an electorate and conflate the issues she would never touch.

And yet she was still resolute, and she made so many people proud, not the least of which was her own family in that room. But, for me, as a black woman, as a mother, I cannot tell you the unbelievable amount of joy to watch somebody finally honored and respected and given her due respect for the composure, for her mind, for her dignity, for her professionalism, for her career.

And let's not be confused for a single moment. Black women don't just have a glass ceiling. They live in a glass cube. Most of the time, they're under a microscope with the sun beating down, hoping for a moment that they will, in fact, fail. And she was set up so many times during that confirmation hearing.

And yet they will eventually, by the end of today, I bet by sundown, if not much sooner, when Rand Paul decides to show up, they will have to call a black woman justice in America.

BLACKWELL: So we have just learned, Laura, that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is with President Biden at the White House watching this count.

CLERK: Mr. Paul.

Mr. Paul, no.


BLACKWELL: All right, we just got to the final vote there. That was Rand Paul voting no on... KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On this vote, the yeas are 53, the nays are 47. And this nomination is confirmed.


HARRIS: Under the previous order, the motion to reconsider is considered made and laid upon the table. And the president will immediately be notified of the Senate's action.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Madam President, very happily, I note the absence of a quorum.



HARRIS: The clerk will call the roll.

CLERK: Ms. Baldwin.

BLACKWELL: It is an historic moment for this country.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is now a future Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, as she will be the first black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, 51 years old, replacing retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.

Laura Coates, let me bring it right back to you.

Up until that moment, it was anticipating what would happen, and now that it has happened, your thoughts?

COATES: It has happened.

And it is a wonderful day in the history of America and in the future of America, because, as she has said herself, one of the things that's so invaluable to the court that they're very much lacking to this day is the idea of public confidence and believing that the court reflects the people of United States of America.


And, here, you have not only somebody who is supremely talented and qualified, but also has the background of somebody who is known to have understood the gravity and the importance of protecting the people who stand accused under the weight of the federal government.

As a prosecutor, I know full well how the deck is stacked against those who are defendants in this country. And to see somebody who has the understanding of what it means to protect the Constitution in service to the court there is unbelievably important.

What also is very beautiful to me is what I saw and what I alluded to before we actually heard the final tally, the idea of moseying on up to cast the final no vote was met with extraordinary boos. Why? One, because I don't understand why he was late for this matter of extraordinary certificates.

And, number two, because it tells you, why on earth, how can it be that we have gone from a time when the very first woman to be the Supreme Court justice, talking about Sandra Day O'Connor, was, I think, 99-0, how it can be that somebody who was qualified as Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is having to scrape by and hope for the kindness of Republican strangers to tally on to the already unanimous Democratic vote.

That tells you a lot about where we are in this country. And I hope that members of Congress, when they're wondering why the American people sometimes question whether the Supreme Court is a political extension of the legislative branch, I hope they look to themselves and can identify and explain to their constituents why this particular nominee would not have gotten a resounding yes.

But I hope their electorate will understand at the end of the day, without it, she still will be Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. And I'm proud.

Congratulations, Madam Justice.

CAMEROTA: We are just getting a photo in right now of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson watching this moment at the White House with the president. The president looks very excited about it. And she looks very happy about it also.

It's obviously a big moment for both of them, as well as for the country.

Natasha, your thoughts as everything you just watched?

ALFORD: I had chills watching that moment. It's hard not to feel some emotion.

I think about that quote: "We are our ancestors' wildest dreams."

And that's what this moment feels like. I also think about the indignities that Judge Jackson faced during these confirmation hearings and the ways that she had to be so calm, so measured, so thoughtful, and to hear the applause. That's what she deserved. That's truly what she deserved.

And I think of black women in law school right now, right, who know that they have to be twice as good. But they wonder, is this lip service? Can I truly break that glass ceiling? And we have this moment now to look forward to, again, more doors opening, because representation is just the beginning. It's just the beginning.

BLACKWELL: Manu, was that booing that we heard when Rand Paul came in to file that final vote?

RAJU: It seemed like exasperation from senators who were waiting for him to come.

Now, he actually -- when he arrived, our colleague Ted Barrett tried to ask him why he was late for this vote. He didn't respond to those questions. He was dressed in casual attire. Most senators Thursday afternoon -- this is the last vote of the week, and they vote and they rush out. So it's unclear exactly why he was late.

And the Democrats kept that vote open. They could have closed the vote, because they had the votes and there's no requirement that they keep the vote open for a certain period of time. But they left it open out of a matter of courtesy, given how significant of a vote this was.

But the reaction afterwards to it was interesting to see. The Democrats stood up. They got into a long, extended standing ovation that is rarely seen in the Senate. You do see that in the House, but the Senate is a different chamber. You rarely see expressions of emotion like that break out in the Senate.

But where we saw that was on the Democratic side of the aisle. Democrats were -- stood up and were cheering. Republicans were mostly gone, with the exception of Mitt Romney, one of the three Republicans who voted to confirm Judge Jackson. He was standing in the back by the Congressional Black Caucus, the House Democratic members who were witnessing this moment of history. He was cheering as well.

But what was also interesting through the course of this process too was that even the Republicans who opposed Judge Jackson, very few -- none of them really questioned her qualifications for the court. It came down to issues of judicial philosophy or questions about a dispute of how she handled sentencing decisions on defendants of child pornography cases, for instance.

But it -- nobody questioned whether she was qualified to serve on the court. And, at the end of the day, they all recognized the significance of this moment. And the reason why there were only three Republicans to break ground shows how different of a time that we are in from just some time ago, when it was commonplace for both sides of the aisle to vote for qualified nominees, whether it was Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Antonin Scalia, who were confirmed overwhelmingly in the Senate during their era.


Now a much different era, a much more partisan era. But she still managed to get three Republican votes, and all 50 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus and make history here today, guys.

CAMEROTA: So, Joan, we know that this doesn't -- probably doesn't change the ideology of the court, because it is a conservative majority, but it does change the dynamic.

And so how will her presence, once she actually is sworn in, what will change?

BISKUPIC: Well, first of all, Alisyn, just think of -- just look at the difference in the ages.

Stephen Breyer, who's retiring at age 83, is 32 years older than her. She's going to bring some fresh thought, some fresh blood, if not a different ideology than his. She also has this very distinctive experience as a former trial judge and a former federal public defender, so a different attitude around the justices' private table.

I'm often reminded in these instances of something Chief Justice John Roberts has said, that just a fresh justice brings an array of fresh thoughts about how -- the operations behind the scenes, about cases, and that just changes everyone to maybe alter his or her lens a little bit.

And then there's Sandra Day O'Connor, who said of the first African- American justice, Thurgood Marshall, who was appointed in 1967, that his special perspective and his ability to tell stories around the private conference table really got them thinking in different ways. He might not have changed votes, but he at least changed the discussion.

BLACKWELL: All right.

BISKUPIC: So I think all of those things, Alisyn...


BISKUPIC: ... will essentially affect and bring us a new Supreme Court, one way or another.

BLACKWELL: All right, Joan, let me jump in here.

We have got Chair of Senate Judiciary Dick Durbin speaking now.


SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL): And I want to tell you we were helped immensely by the fact that President Biden picked the most extraordinary individual that I can think of in America.

She turned out to be a pillar of strength to show grace and dignity, and really won over the hearts of the American people. That's not just a feeling. It's reflected in the polling. After our first week -- and she'd been going through 24 hours of questions -- they asked the American people their opinion over. And it went up. It was positive.

She was cool under pressure. She was solid. And she really made the case that to, be the first, you have to be the best.

So, this committee worked long and hard, not only for this nomination, but also for other nominations for courts in the land. We want to make our justice system look much more like America. And, today, we took a giant stride forward in getting this judge, Ketanji Brown Jackson, her chance, her lifetime chance to serve on the United States Supreme Court.

I'm going to turn it over to a former member of the committee who is still always welcome in the committee, but the majority leader, Chuck Schumer.

SCHUMER: Thank you. Well, I just wanted to -- it is just an amazing day. If I had to think

of an adjective to describe all of us, it would be elated, elated because of this wonderful person going on the court, elated because, America, today, the higher angels, as Abraham Lincoln said, held forth and held true.

This has been a long, hard road, as we try to get to greater equality, less bigotry in America. And there's often steps backward. But when you have a day like this, it inspires you to keep moving forward. There's no better group to have us move forward than this group.

I came here to praise the Judiciary Committee, led by Dick Durbin -- he just did a fabulous job -- and to praise all of the members of this...

CAMEROTA: We have been listening to how the senators are wrapping up this historic vote for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson and talking about how, their word, that they are elated at how the court looks more like America today.


And that image, the stark image after the vote was called by the vice president of Democrats on one side cheering, and you saw people in the rest of the chamber and Republicans filing out silently afterwards, really brings home what we heard from Gloria, was that we're now in this era where maybe the high mark is two or three of the party that's not in the White House confirming a nomination.


Laura -- all right, yes, I -- I wanted to make sure that you are still with us.

One of the things that Dick Durbin just said that I think is so interesting is that it looks much more like America now. And she also has all of these -- Victor and I have talked about this in the past -- these different touch points for all of us. I think she has family that is in law enforcement.

She is a mother. She is married. I believe she has a relative who had a brush with law...


CAMEROTA: Her uncle, I believe, who is imprisoned.