Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s tie vote in Judiciary Committee and next steps, explained

The Senate Judiciary Committee has deadlocked 11-11 on Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination, forcing Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to take a more circuitous route to get her to a floor vote.

In Monday’s committee meeting, all Democrats voted to advance Jackson’s nomination, while all Republicans voted against doing so. While Democrats have lauded her experience as a district judge, appeals court judge and public defender, Republicans have expressed qualms about her judicial philosophy as well as sentencing decisions she previously made on child porn cases. (Experts have said these sentences were well within the norm of what other district judges have imposed.)

The tie vote on Monday made those differences clear.

“If we were in charge, she would not have been before this committee,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said during the committee meeting. “You would have had somebody more moderate than this.”

Because of the Senate’s 50-50 split, any tie nominee vote in the committee requires a special process to advance the nomination to the floor. First, Schumer has to file a petition discharging, or releasing, Jackson’s nomination. Then, senators have four hours to debate the petition on the floor. If a simple majority votes in favor of the petition, her nomination can then be considered. Because Democrats’ have a narrow 50-person majority, and Republican Sen. Susan Collins (ME) has already said she’ll be backing Jackson’s nomination, the petition is likely to get the votes it needs when considered.

Once Jackson’s nomination clears committee, Democrats hope to hold a floor vote by Friday, April 8, before lawmakers leave for their Easter recess.

The vote on the discharge petition could offer a preview of just how many Republicans would be willing to support Jackson. If others beside Collins vote in favor of moving her nomination out of Committee, that could be an indication that they’ll back her in a final vote, too.

Where Jackson’s nomination goes from here

The use of a discharge petition shows how polarizing these nominations have become.

In the past, nominees like Clarence Thomas and Robert Bork were able to receive floor votes even though they didn’t receive the Judiciary Committee’s backing. In fact, no Supreme Court nominee has been discharged since 1853.

Once the Senate approves the discharge petition for Jackson’s nomination, it will take a few more days to clear other procedural steps.

The Senate will need to hold another vote ending debate on her nomination, also known as a cloture vote. After that vote takes place, lawmakers will have thirty hours to discuss their support and opposition of Jackson on the floor before they hold a final vote likely to take place on Friday.

The discharge petition vote could well reveal whether other Republicans like Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) will consider supporting Jackson. If they vote in favor of it, it may speak to their backing of her nomination as well.

Previously, three Republicans — Sens. Collins (R-ME), Murkowski (R-AK), and Graham (R-SC) — voted to support Jackson’s nomination to the DC Circuit Court. Collins has already said she plans to do so again, while Graham announced that he would not. Murkowski and Romney have yet to state how they’re voting. (Romney is widely viewed as another potential Republican vote.)

Given the limited Republican support Jackson received last year, it’s unlikely she’ll get more than a handful of GOP votes this time around, either.

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