Lindsey Graham calls a win for 'radical Left' Supreme Court nomination of judge he just confirmed to federal court

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Eight months after voting to confirm her appointment to the federal bench, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court a victory for the “radical Left.”

The White House announced Friday morning that President Biden was selecting Jackson, 51, to fill the seat of Justice Stephen Breyer, who is retiring from the court. If confirmed, Jackson would become the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

Sen. Lindsey Graham raises his index finger as he speaks in front of a backdrop showing the Capitol.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at the Capitol in December. (Sarah Silbiger/Reuters)

Graham voted to confirm Jackson to her current position on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit just last summer. Graham was one of three Republicans to support her, along with Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

“If media reports are accurate, and Judge Jackson has been chosen as the Supreme Court nominee to replace Justice Breyer, it means the radical Left has won President Biden over yet again,” Graham posted on Twitter on Friday morning. “The attacks by the Left on Judge Childs from South Carolina apparently worked.”

Graham and Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., had been urging Biden to select J. Michelle Childs, who is also Black, a federal judge in his home state of South Carolina. In the past few weeks, Graham has made the case that Childs would get the most bipartisan support. However, many progressives and labor leaders had argued against her selection, on the grounds that she had worked at a corporate law firm representing management in cases involving discrimination and labor law violations.

Graham told ABC News earlier this month that he felt Childs would get the most Republican votes, after strongly endorsing her in an interview with CBS News last month in which he said he “couldn’t think of a better person” for the role.

In a statement Friday morning, the White House said, “Judge Jackson is an exceptionally qualified nominee as well as an historic nominee, and the Senate should move forward with a fair and timely hearing and confirmation."

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson stands in her office with law volumes in bookshelves to her left, and an artist's image of a Black woman on the wall behind her.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in her office in Washington on Feb. 18. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo)

Childs’s supporters noted that she was educated at public universities, a contrast with the preponderance of Ivy League alumni on the Supreme Court. Jackson attended Harvard for both her undergraduate and law degrees, but she would become the first former federal public defender to sit on the high court.

“I expect a respectful but interesting hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Graham said Friday morning. “The Harvard-Yale train to the Supreme Court continues to run unabated.” Graham was himself a prominent supporter of two justices appointed by then-President Donald Trump, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, who hold degrees from Harvard, Yale and Columbia.

While the White House would welcome bipartisan support for the pick, Democrats are expected to have the 50 votes needed for Jackson's confirmation. While Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have impeded parts of Biden’s legislative agenda, they’ve supported every one of his nominees to the federal bench. Breyer was appointed by President Bill Clinton, and Jackson’s confirmation would not shift the court's current composition of conservatives to liberals on the court of 6-3.

Of the two other Republicans who voted to confirm Jackson last year, Collins also voted to confirm both of President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominees.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin, both wearing masks, stand side by side in an elevator in the Senate building.
Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., on an elevator to the Senate chamber in September. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

“Ketanji Brown Jackson is an experienced federal judge with impressive academic and legal credentials,” Collins said in a statement Friday morning. “I will conduct a thorough vetting of Judge Jackson's nomination and look forward to her public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee and to meeting with her in my office."

Murkowski, meanwhile, is a moderate who is up for reelection this year, but a new election system in Alaska featuring ranked-choice voting could make it more politically palatable for her to vote for Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, even though she faces a primary challenge from the right.