Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmed to US Supreme Court

President Biden's nominee becomes first black woman to serve on the US high court in its 233-year history

The US Senate on Thursday voted to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, making her the first black woman to serve on the nation's highest court in its 233-year history.

It also will mark the first time in the Supreme Court's history that white men do not make up the court's majority.

Three Republican senators — Susan Collins, Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski — joined all 50 Democrats to confirm President Joe Biden's nominee. Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the vote.

President Joe Biden hugs Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as they watch the Senate vote on her confirmation from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington on Thursday, April 7, 2022.  AP

"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," Ms Harris said, her eyes welling with tears.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer replied: "Madame President, very happily, I note the absence of a quorum."

The packed chamber then erupted in cheers, senators hugging and fist pumping.

The three Republican senators' backing handed Mr Biden a bipartisan vote for his first Supreme Court nominee.

A long line of would-be spectators waited in line outside the Senator chamber, many of them African-American women dressed in all black with white pearls, hoping to witness the historic event.

Mr Biden, who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee in the 1980s and 90s, now has the unprecedented distinction of both naming and overseeing the confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice.

Four women will serve on the court once Ms Jackson takes her seat at the end of the current term. She would also be one of two black Justices, along with the Clarence Thomas.

Ms Jackson will replace the retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, for whom she had previously clerked. And while her confirmation would be historic, it would not shift the 6-3 conservative majority.

"This is a joyous day and inspiring day for the Senate, for the Supreme Court and for the United States of America," Mr Schumer said on the Senate floor before the confirmation vote.

"There are three words that I think best fit Judge Jackson: brilliant, beloved, and belongs," he said.

The Supreme Court nominee faced a gruelling confirmation process that included fending off accusations from Republican senators that she was “soft” on child pornographers as a judge, though her sentencing record is consistent with other federal judges.

Republicans also criticised her legal representation of some detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba. Republican Senator Tom Cotton suggested she would have defended Nazis war criminals during the Nuremberg trials.

In response to Republican attacks, a letter from Guantanamo Bay lawyers to the committee noted that her involvement in cases at the detention centre “demonstrated a commitment to the Nation’s most cherished ideals".

And one of Ms Jackson's Republican supporters, Ms Collins, bemoaned the increasing partisanship of the confirmation process.

“In recent years, senators on both sides of the aisle have got away from what I perceive to be the appropriate process for evaluating judicial nominees,” she said in a statement.

During her confirmation hearings, Ms Jackson noted that she was born in 1970 in the aftermath of civil rights laws aimed at curbing discrimination against black people and other minorities in voting, housing, employment, public accommodation and other areas. Ms Jackson referenced the fact that her parents had experienced lawful racial segregation first-hand in their hometown of Miami.

Agencies contributed to this report.

Updated: April 08, 2022, 4:41 AM