WASHINGTON — Democrats were poised on Monday to force the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Senate floor, setting up a confirmation vote this week to install the first Black woman on the Supreme Court even as Republicans fought to make her path as arduous as possible.
During a contentious Judiciary Committee meeting, Republicans spent hours vehemently reiterating their opposition to Judge Jackson’s elevation, calling her a progressive activist who was soft on crime, while Democrats praised her qualifications and demeanor and said President Biden’s nominee deserved to be confirmed.
“This is a historic moment for the committee and America,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois.
While they did not dispute the import of Judge Jackson’s nomination nor her legal qualifications, Republicans continued to assail her on a variety of fronts. They criticized the sentences she handed down in child sex abuse cases, her refusal to state a personal judicial philosophy, her past representation of terrorism detainees as a public defender and her deep support among progressive advocacy groups.
“This choice of Judge Jackson was really embraced by the most radical people in the Democratic movement to the exclusion of everyone else,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a former supporter of Judge Jackson who has become a fierce opponent.
Republicans were poised to oppose Judge Jackson’s nomination unanimously, deadlocking the evenly divided committee 11 to 11 and forcing Democrats to use a special maneuver to discharge it by a vote of the full Senate. It was a mark of how bitterly divided the Senate has grown over approving Supreme Court nominees, once regarded by members of both parties as a matter of allowing the president his chosen candidate to serve on the court.
Though Republicans continued to complain about past Democratic treatment of Supreme Court nominees named by Republicans, it was a far cry from how Democrats handled Clarence Thomas in 1991, when Mr. Biden led the panel. At the time, the committee agreed to vote to send his nomination to the floor without a recommendation despite Democrats’ deep misgivings amid allegations of sexual harassment against the nominee. On Monday, Republicans refused to take a similar step, citing their view that Judge Jackson was too liberal.
“We are supposed to be trained seals over here clapping when you nominated a liberal,” Mr. Graham said. “That’s not going to work.”
He warned that when Republicans next control the Senate, they would routinely deny Democratic judicial nominees they considered too liberal a hearing before the judiciary panel.
A quick vote on Judge Jackson’s nomination was postponed because Senator Alex Padilla, Democrat of California, had air travel problems returning from his home state, denying his party its full complement of 11 members to take the next step in advancing the nomination.
Once the vote is held, Democrats planned to move quickly later Monday to hold a Senate floor vote to force it out of the committee despite the deadlock. That would clear the way for a floor vote as early as Thursday to confirm Judge Jackson before a looming two-week recess.
The postponement of the vote was another reflection of how starkly the lines are drawn, leaving no margin of error for Democrats eager to win her approval.
Just one Republican, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, has so far said she would vote in support of the nomination on the floor, but if Democrats remain solidly united behind Judge Jackson, they have the votes to install her as the successor to the retiring Justice Stephen G. Breyer.
Republicans continued to question her credibility, citing her resistance to calls to outline her philosophical approach, with Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, saying the response showed a lack of candor.
“Someone of her impressive caliber surely has a judicial philosophy, but maybe she just doesn’t want to talk about it,” Mr. Cornyn said.
3 Things to Know About Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Nomination
1. Her confirmation is nearly ensured. After a bruising set of hearings, Democrats are united behind Judge Jackson. The backing of Senator Joe Manchin III signaled that all 50 Senate Democrats would support her nomination, which Republicans would be unable to stop.
In response, Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, accused Republicans of creating a caricature of Judge Jackson that is “so far out of the lines” of reality considering her deep credentials and experience. He said he had heard from people who asked: “How could they create these exaggerations? How could they disrespect a person like her, who has done everything right in her life and in her journey?”
Democrats defended Judge Jackson’s record, noting — in line with several independent analysts — that her sentencing record has fallen well within the mainstream of the federal judiciary, and accusing Republicans and conservative groups of distorting her record. They pointed to her strong support from law enforcement groups and said that many Trump administration nominees had issued similar sentences but were uniformly approved by the same Republicans lining up against Judge Jackson.
“They should have all been dragged through the mud and called names,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota.
Democrats said the Republican assault was as much about the coming midterm elections as it was about Judge Jackson herself.
“The principal goal here is about stirring up political division and scoring political points,” said Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware.
Though some Republican members of the panel once contemplated boycotting the committee vote to erect a procedural roadblock to Judge Jackson, they quickly abandoned that tactic. But none would support moving the nomination out of committee to expedite her consideration on the floor.
Even as Republicans on the panel uniformly said they would oppose her, many offered her personal and professional praise.
Senator Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who on Monday said that Judge Jackson would be the most extreme liberal ever to sit on the court, called her charming and talented.
“I’ve known her for 30 years and always liked her personally,” he said.
Senator Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina and another vote against her, said: “This is not about the content of her character.”