February 28, 2022
President Joe Biden has selected Ketanji Brown Jackson as his nominee to the Supreme Court, according to a source who has been notified about the decision—setting in motion an historic confirmation process for the first Black woman to sit on the highest court in the nation, CNN was first to report on Friday, February 25.
Jackson, 51, currently sits on DC’s federal appellate court and had been considered the front-runner for the vacancy since Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement.
She received and accepted Biden’s offer in a call on Thursday night, a source familiar with the decision told CNN.
Jackson clerked for Breyer and served as a federal public defender in Washington, D.C.—an experience that her backers say is fitting, given Biden’s commitment to putting more public defenders on the federal bench. She was also a commissioner on the US Sentencing Commission and served on the federal district court in D.C., as an appointee of President Barack Obama, before Biden elevated her to the D.C. Circuit last year.
Biden’s pick is a chance for him to fire up a Democratic base that is less excited to vote in this year’s midterm elections than it has been over the past several election cycles. It’s also a welcome change of topic for the president, whose approval ratings have been sagging in recent months as the COVID-19 pandemic has dragged on and inflation has affected consumers across the nation. The selection gives Biden a chance to deliver on one of his top campaign promises, and he’ll hope that the Black voters who were crucial to his election win will see this as a return on their investment.
Although it is historic, the choice of Jackson will not change the ideological makeup of the court. The court currently has six conservative justices and three liberal justices—and the retiring Breyer comes from the liberal camp. The court is already poised to continue its turn toward the right with high-profile cases and rulings expected from the court in the coming months on abortion, gun control and religious liberty issues.
Eyes will now turn to the Senate, where Biden’s Democratic Party holds the thinnest possible majority. The president will hope that Jackson can garner bipartisan support, but Democrats will need all their members in Washington to ensure her confirmation. Unlike for most major pieces of legislation, Democrats do not need Republican help to confirm a Supreme Court justice and can do it with their 50 votes and Vice President Kamala Harris breaking a deadlock. When Jackson was confirmed to the appellate bench, she had the support of three Republican senators.
However, President Biden’s choice already is facing Republican opposition. Several Senate Republicans have told CNN that they disagree with the president’s decision to name a Black woman to the court rather than judging a nominee squarely on his or her credentials, even though Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump both said they’d name a female justice to the Supreme Court when they were on the campaign trail.
Before Biden even picked a nominee, GOP senators and Senate candidates were already concluding that she’d be far left, throwing cold water on the names floated as being on Biden’s potential short list and calling for a slow confirmation process. Still, Republicans are limited in their ability to block a Supreme Court nominee, and Jackson may win the support of some GOP senators.
Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine all voted for Jackson last summer when she was confirmed as a circuit court judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the second most important court in the country.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has indicated that he wants to push a nominee through the process quickly, using Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s Senate proceedings as a model for Jackson’s confirmation timeline.
Research contact: @CNN