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 conservative Republicans to derail her nomination, Judge Jackson was confirmed on a 53-47 vote, with three Republicans joining all 50 Democrats in backing her. The vote was a rejection of Republican attempts to paint her as a liberal extremist who has coddled criminals. Dismissing those portrayals as distorted and offensive, Judge Jackson’s backers saw the confirmation as an uplifting occasion, one where a representative of a group often pushed into the background instead moved to the forefront.
The vote put her in line to replace Justice Stephen G. Breyer when he retires at the end of the court’s session this summer.
“Even in the darkest times, there are bright lights,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, 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 to witness the historic vote were packed, with long lines to get in.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, made one last argument against Judge Jackson’s nomination, framing the nomination as an example of the far left taking control of the Democratic Party.
“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 said. “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 support Judge Jackson, lending a modicum of bipartisanship to an otherwise bitterly polarized process.
Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black woman to hold the position and one of just 11 Black senators in American history, presided over the vote — one historic figure presiding over the elevation of another — as senators stated their positions from their desks in a reflection of the magnitude of the moment. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus clustered on the Senate floor to mark the occasion.
At the White House, Mr. Biden and Judge Jackson watched the vote from the Roosevelt Room.
The final debate came after a contentious confirmation battle in which conservative Republicans worked to derail Judge Jackson’s nomination and sully her record with misleading claims, painting her as a liberal extremist who has coddled criminals, particularly child sexual abuse defendants.
On Wednesday, before the confirmation vote, some of the judge’s most vocal critics made one final airing of their objections.
“She is an extreme outlier on the question of crime,” Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, told reporters, reiterating the right-wing attack that Judge Jackson had been lenient in her sentencing of criminal defendants, and in particular, sex offenders.
Senator Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, claimed that “the dark money leftist groups” supporting Judge Jackson were “trying to push this agenda of woke education.”
Denouncing such criticism, her backers emphasized her deep qualifications and experience in the law, and characterized her impending confirmation as a triumph.
“This is really, in my view, a moment to celebrate,” said Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado, urging the judge’s confirmation and lamenting that it would not be unanimous. “She is an inspiration to millions and millions of Americans.”