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The Senate has confirmed Judge Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The Senate made history today when it confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court. After 233 years, she will be the first Black woman to ever serve on the nation's highest court.

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RAPHAEL WARNOCK: I know how much it means for Judge Jackson to have navigated the double jeopardy of racism and sexism to now stand in the glory of this moment in all of her excellence.

CHANG: Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock was one of the 50 Democrats joined by three Republicans to confirm Jackson. Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin placed this moment in the context of America's dark racial history.

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DICK DURBIN: When the Supreme Court first met in this building in February of 1801, there were 1 million slaves in this nation, a nation of 5 million people.

CHANG: Kamala Harris, the first Black woman to serve as vice president, presided over the vote.

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VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: On this vote, the ayes are 53, the nays are 47, and this nomination is confirmed.

(APPLAUSE)

CHANG: Supporters of Jackson, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, erupted into applause. Ketanji Brown Jackson will take her seat as Justice Jackson this summer, which will bring another first, a record four women on the Supreme Court at the same time. NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell is with us now to tell us more about this moment. Hey, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.

CHANG: All right. So we got some sense there already, but tell us more about what the mood was like in the Senate chamber today.

SNELL: I mean, you heard that cheering. Democrats were really ecstatic. You know, Vice President Harris, as we heard, was there to preside. And her husband, the second gentleman, was there to watch. And, you know, one of the funny moments was Majority Leader Chuck Schumer did a little dance on the floor. I mean, this was a big moment.

CHANG: How were his dancing skills?

SNELL: Yeah (laughter). You know, on big votes like this, sometimes the majority leader asks all of the members to be present and sitting. It doesn't usually work that way. And Schumer did that today, but at least one person didn't listen. They got to the end of the vote, and Rand Paul was absolutely nowhere to be found. So senators sat around for more than 10 minutes waiting for him to show up to vote even though the outcome was already clear.

CHANG: Right. Exactly. I mean, even though this is a big moment for Democrats, Jackson's nomination has seemed to be on a clear path to confirmation for the past several weeks. And we should be clear she will not change the ideological balance of this court. So given all of that, how did Republicans react today?

SNELL: Well, not many of them actually spoke on the floor right before her vote. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer were among the only ones who did speak. And, you know, they outlined problems they have with Jackson's record. McConnell defended the questions Republicans raised during her confirmation hearings without ever mentioning the controversial questioning about her record related to sentences for child pornography offenders. Here's what he said.

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MITCH MCCONNELL: Let's be clear. No nominee before the Senate for any position deserves a cakewalk or a coronation.

SNELL: He said that a judge's record - and all of it - is fair game and part of the process for assessing a nominee for a lifetime appointment to the court. You know, Democrats and many activists, though, accused Republicans of racism and said Jackson's judicial record was distorted.

CHANG: And how are those supporters responding now that her confirmation has happened?

SNELL: Well, there's a mixture of joy and satisfaction and actually calls for further action. I spoke with Rashad Robinson. He's the president of the racial justice group Color of Change. And he says he feels Jackson raises the bar for what voters should expect from the perspective and experience of justices on the court. But he also said he felt Jackson's confirmation process is an indication of how he thinks Republicans will speak about Black and brown people in the upcoming midterm election and beyond. And that's a point several other groups raised even as they celebrated this moment. But Robinson also said Democrats can learn from this.

RASHAD ROBINSON: We have to remember that Black activism and Black voters did bring us this long-awaited moment. We demanded representation and not just in gender and race but in perspective, values and experience.

SNELL: He said Democrats need to remember that their voters want consistent results. And this shows that their voters will be active, that they will show up. And they - Democrats can't just follow through on one promise and hope that they will keep showing up no matter how important that promise is.

CHANG: That is NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell. Thank you, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.