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Biden selects first Black woman Ketanji Jackson as Supreme Court nominee

ketanji brown jackson

President Biden has selected Ketanji Brown Jackson as his nominee to the Supreme Court, according to a Friday morning White House announcement. If confirmed, she will be the first Black woman to serve on the nation’s highest court.

Biden nominated Jackson, 51, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia last summer. Jackson had served as a district judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia since 2013, previously working as a public defender, the vice chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission and a clerk under retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Jackson attended Harvard for both undergrad and law school and if confirmed would be the first federal public defender to serve on the court.

Jackson was confirmed to her current post by the Senate in a 53-44 vote, with Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina voting in her favor. According to a Yahoo News poll earlier this month, 69 percent of Americans said Jackson was qualified to sit on the court, including 57 percent of Republicans.

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“Judge Jackson is an exceptionally qualified nominee as well as an historic nominee, and the Senate should move forward with a fair and timely hearing and confirmation,” the White House announced in a statement. Biden and Jackson will both deliver remarks Friday afternoon.

During her confirmation hearing for the U.S. Court of Appeals, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, asked Jackson what role race played in her time as a judge.

“I don’t think that race plays a role in the kind of judge that I have been and would be. I’m doing a certain thing when I get my cases,” Jackson replied. “I’m looking at the arguments, the facts and the law. I’m methodically and intentionally setting aside personal views, any other inappropriate considerations, and I would think that race would be the kind of thing that would be inappropriate to inject into my evaluation of a case.”

One of Jackson’s most prominent rulings was a 2019 decision in which she ordered former Trump White House counsel Don McGahn to testify in the impeachment inquiry against then-President Donald Trump.

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Breyer, 83, announced in late January that he would step down from his position, opening the door for Biden to fulfill a key campaign promise that he would nominate a Black woman if given the opportunity of an open seat. Breyer, a liberal, was a Clinton appointee, and Biden’s replacement will not alter the current 6-3 conservative majority on the court.

With the Senate split 50-50, Democrats either need to be fully united on confirming the pick or gain Republican votes. While centrist Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have impeded Biden’s legislative agenda, they have so far voted for every one of his nominees to the federal judiciary.

Manchin voted to confirm two of Trump’s picks for the high court, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, but voted against confirming Justice Amy Coney Barrett, saying that the process was too rushed in the weeks before the 2020 election. Sinema, who was not in office for the first two confirmations, also voted no on Barrett.

In a statement shortly after Breyer announced he was stepping down, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the chamber would move with “deliberate speed” in working to get Biden’s nominee confirmed. The most recent Supreme Court confirmation occurred in a little over a month: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Sept. 18, 2020, and Barrett was confirmed to replace her on Oct. 26.

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