WASHINGTON — With his vote to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, has proved to be that rarest of commodities in today’s Congress: a persuadable senator.
Three Republicans voted to confirm Jackson: Romney, and Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine. Of those three, only Romney voted last year against confirming Jackson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, often considered the second-highest court in the land.
After meeting with Jackson last month and reviewing her confirmation hearings, Romney changed his mind, saying he had “concluded that she is a well-qualified jurist and a person of honor.” It was an implicit rejection of the narrative that his fellow Republicans had pushed about the first Black woman to be put forward for the Supreme Court, who many of them portrayed during her confirmation hearings as a liberal extremist who was soft on crime.
“While I do not expect to agree with every decision she may make on the court, I believe that she more than meets the standard of excellence and integrity,” Romney said in a statement this week.
He is, at the moment, seemingly in the middle of everything. He just brokered a bipartisan deal to salvage a $10 billion coronavirus response package that had stalled amid partisan haggling, this time fully paid for by previously allocated federal funds. He is part of bipartisan efforts to rewrite the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which President Donald Trump sought to manipulate to keep himself in office after losing the 2020 election.
And Romney has appealed to Democrats to work with him on legislation to support children and families, now that the expanded child tax credit has expired and President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better safety net legislation is moribund. All of that is coming after he helped deliver what might be the crowning achievement of Biden’s first year in office: the $1 trillion infrastructure bill.
As Democrats have struggled to pull together 50 senators to advance social safety net legislation, they may find that Romney is a more persuadable bet for that pivotal 50th vote than Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the Democrat who has stymied their efforts so far.
“Whenever there is a bipartisan effort to tackle an issue, its success is nearly guaranteed,” Romney said in a recent interview. “Bipartisan efforts pass. What does not pass in a 50-50 Senate is legislation crafted entirely by one party.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.