WASHINGTON — Sen. Marco Rubio signaled Tuesday that he will likely vote against fellow Miamian Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court after a meeting with the federal judge failed to assuage his concerns about President Joe Biden’s nominee.
“As I said when Judge Jackson was nominated, I cannot support any nominee that believes it is appropriate for judges to craft new policies and create rights instead of interpreting and defending the Constitution as written,” the Florida Republican said in a statement following a meeting with Jackson.
“Judge Jackson’s story is inspiring and I appreciated the opportunity to meet with her. Unfortunately, our conversation today did nothing to ease my concerns that we have starkly different understandings of the Constitution and the role of the Supreme Court,” Rubio said.
Jackson will be the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court if confirmed by the full Senate, which Democrats hope to accomplish before Easter.
Despite the strong wording of his statement, Rubio couched his stance Tuesday evening and told reporters that he would wait until next week’s confirmation hearings to make his final decision about how to vote on Jackson’s nomination.
Rubio was one of three senators who did not participate in the vote when Jackson was confirmed last year to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
“I’m going to wait for this thing to be completed,” Rubio said when asked if there was any way he could be persuaded to support the judge. “I mean, again, I’m not sure any single one meeting would accomplish that. It’s a pretty high standard, but I mean especially for someone who doesn’t have a long judicial history.”
Jackson has roughly nine years on the federal bench, serving on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia from 2013 to 2021. She was elevated last year by Biden to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett, whom Rubio supported in 2020, had served three years as a federal appeals judge before her Supreme Court confirmation.
Jackson and Rubio both hail from Miami. Jackson, the daughter of Miami educators, was a debate star and student body president at Miami Palmetto Senior High School, where she graduated in 1988.
Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, graduated in 1989 from South Miami Senior High School, less than six miles away from Jackson’s alma mater.
“She went to Palmetto, which is a rival of my high school, but I’m not going to hold that against her,” Rubio said with a smile. “We beat them her senior year.”
Rubio said he had asked Jackson about her view of the judiciary and said her answers were “consistent with what she said in the past,” but added that she “ventured into some of the newer issues that are before society today that didn’t exist, technology and things of that nature, so it’s an interesting response.”
In contrast to many senators, Rubio’s office did not announce his meeting with the judge in advance.
Jackson’s meeting with the Florida senator took place on the same day that she also met with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in a highly publicized but brief meeting.
When Biden announced Jackson’s nomination to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer last month, Rubio said at the time that his decision on whether to support the fellow Floridian would be “based on whether Judge Jackson has a demonstrated commitment to original intent, judicial restraint, and the understanding that the Supreme Court is a ‘trier of law’ appellate court and not a ‘trier of fact’ trial court.”
His likely opposition to the judge is sure to be a topic of debate in his reelection race against Democratic Rep. Val Demings, who would be the first Black woman to represent Florida in the Senate if elected.
Demings praised Jackson’s credentials and touted her Florida ties when her nomination was announced last month.
“In less partisan times she is the kind of nominee who might have been confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate,” Demings said at the time.
Demings’ campaign blasted Rubio after his critical statement of Jackson following their Tuesday meeting.
“Marco Rubio has proven yet again that he’s too weak to reject the party bosses who tell him what to do. Instead of setting politics aside and considering an exceptionally qualified Floridian to serve on the Supreme Court, he’s continuing his relentless push to dismantle voting rights and strip women of their right to choose,” said Demings’ campaign spokesperson Christian Slater.
Jackson requires 51 votes for confirmation, which Democrats can provide on their own through Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.
Still, Democratic leadership has repeatedly expressed its hope that Jackson will receive GOP votes as she has during her past confirmation processes for other federal positions.
But it’s unlikely that any of those GOP votes will come from Florida, where the judge spent the bulk of her childhood.
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., met with Jackson last week. Scott, a former Florida governor who chairs that National Republican Senatorial Committee, has not been as explicit in his criticism of the judge as Rubio, but he alluded to concerns about times that Jackson’s decisions have been overturned during her nine years as a federal judge.
“She’s going to have to understand she’s on the judiciary, she’s not on the legislative branch,” Scott said. “I appointed 407 judges when I was governor of Florida and that’s what I asked people, you know, it’s your job to convince me that they really understand that, you know, you have a limited role and that’s only to interpret the law, not make the law.”