The Senate on Thursday confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, making her the first Black woman to be elevated to the pinnacle of the judicial branch in what her supporters hailed as a needed step toward bringing new diversity and life experience to the court.
Overcoming a concerted effort by Republicans to sully her record and derail her nomination, Judge Jackson was confirmed on a 53-to-47 vote, with three Republicans joining all 50 members of the Democratic caucus in backing her.
The vote was a rejection of Republican attempts to paint her as a liberal extremist who had coddled criminals. Dismissing those portrayals as distorted and offensive, Judge Jackson’s backers saw the confirmation as an uplifting occasion for the Senate and a mark of how far the country had come.
Judge Jackson, whose parents attended segregated schools, has two degrees from Harvard University and, at 51, is now in line to replace Justice Stephen G. Breyer when he retires at the end of the court’s session this summer, making her a justice in waiting.
“Even in the darkest times, there are bright lights,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said on the Senate floor. “Today is one of the brightest lights. Let us hope it’s a metaphor, an indication of many bright lights to come.”
He added, “How many millions of kids in generations past could have benefited from such a role model?”
At the Capitol, the galleries, closed for much of the pandemic, were filled with supporters on hand to witness the historic vote. The chamber erupted in cheers, with senators, staff and visitors all jumping to their feet for a lengthy standing ovation, when the vote was announced.
“After weeks and weeks of racist, misogynistic and stomach-churning attacks, we cannot wait to finally call her Justice Jackson,” said Derrick Johnson, the president of the N.A.A.C.P., describing the moment as one of “enormous consequence to our nation and to history.”
Not everyone shared in the joy of the day. As applause echoed from the marbled walls, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, turned his back and slowly walked out, as did most of the few Republicans remaining on the floor, leaving half of the chamber empty as the other half celebrated in a stark reflection of the partisan divide.
“When it came to one of the most consequential decisions a president can make, a lifetime appointment to our highest court, the Biden administration let the radicals run the show,” Mr. McConnell had said earlier, making one last argument against Judge Jackson, whose nomination he framed as an example of extremists taking control of the Democratic Party. “The far left got the reckless inflationary spending they wanted. The far left has gotten the insecure border they wanted. And today, the far left will get the Supreme Court justice they wanted.”
Three Republicans — Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah — crossed party lines to vote to confirm Judge Jackson, lending a modicum of bipartisanship to an otherwise bitterly polarized process.
It was a sign of the deeply divided times that winning over three Republicans was considered something of a victory. When Justice Breyer — nominated by President Bill Clinton — was confirmed in 1994, it was by a 87-to-9 vote, in line with prevailing sentiment at the time that presidents were entitled to their chosen justice, provided the nominee was qualified and temperamentally suited to the job.
But in recent years, Supreme Court confirmation fights have become political blood sport, featuring combative televised hearings in which senators of the opposite party seek to tarnish the reputation of the president’s nominee, while making partisan appeals to their core supporters.
Confirmations have fallen almost entirely along partisan lines. Democrats uniformly opposed Justice Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald J. Trump’s third nominee to the court, who was rushed through just before the 2020 election, and only one of them voted to confirm his second, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, whose explosive hearings included an allegation of sexual assault.In 2017, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, Mr. Trump’s first nominee, received three Democratic votes — the same level of bipartisanship as Judge Jackson — but his nomination came only after Republicans had blocked President Barack Obama from filling a Supreme Court seat a year earlier, refusing to grant a hearing to his nominee, Merrick B. Garland, during an election year.