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Biden hails Ketanji Brown Jackson’s historic confirmation to Supreme Court

Ketanji Brown Jackson turns and waves as she enters the White House with Vice President Harris, as Marines stand by saluting.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson and Vice President Kamala Harris follow President Biden back inside the White House after Friday’s celebration on the South Lawn.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
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President Biden on Friday heralded the historic confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, soon to be the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court, as “a moment of real change in American history.”

Biden, who watched with Jackson from the Roosevelt Room on Thursday as the Senate voted 53 to 47 to confirm her, marveled at the sunny weather Friday that reflected the mood at the White House as Democratic allies celebrated her groundbreaking appointment.

“This is going to let so much sun shine on so many young women,” the president said during a ceremony on the White House’s South Lawn. “It’s a powerful thing when people can see themselves in others.”

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Jackson, a 51-year-old judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, will be sworn in to replace retiring Justice Stephen G. Breyer, 83, one of the court’s three liberals, once the current term ends in June.

In an emotional and sometimes tearful speech, during which she thanked the president, his staff, and her family members and mentors, Jackson called her appointment “the greatest honor” of her life.

“It has taken 232 years and 115 prior appointments for a Black woman to be selected to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States,” she said. “But we’ve made it — all of us.”

“In my family,” she added, “it took just one generation to go from segregation to the Supreme Court of the United States.”

The Florida native quoted the Maya Angelou poem “Still I Rise” as she reflected on the moment.

“Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave,” she said.

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They were Jackson’s first public remarks since her contentious confirmation hearings, where she sat stoically through attacks by Republican senators, answering their questions calmly.

The president thanked the three GOP senators who joined Democrats and independents to confirm Jackson and cement her place in history, but lambasted the Republicans who he said made the “most vile, baseless assertions and accusations,” amounting to “verbal abuse.”

The mood was festive on the crowded White House lawn, where dozens of lawmakers, White House staffers and members of the president’s Cabinet joined Jackson’s family and Democratic activists in erupting into cheers throughout the event. Current and former justices had been invited, according to the White House, but none attended.

The event gave Biden a chance to take a victory lap on his fulfillment of a campaign promise to appoint a Black woman to the high court if given the chance.

“When I decided to run, this was one of the first decisions I made,” he recalled. “I could see it as a day of hope, a day of promise, a day of progress.”

Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks in front of the White House.
Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks in front of the White House after the U.S. Senate confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the Supreme Court.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
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Vice President Kamala Harris, who is a trailblazer in her own position and presided over the final Senate vote Thursday, said Jackson’s appointment will “inspire a generation of leaders” who will see for the first time “four women sitting on that court at the same time.”

For Biden, Jackson’s lifetime appointment is likely to amount to one of the more consequential achievements of his presidency — even though, in the near term, it will not affect the ideological split on the Supreme Court, which is dominated by its six conservative justices.

The Senate’s confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court concludes her historic nomination to become the nation’s first Black female justice.

April 7, 2022

Jackson shares the Ivy League background of most justices, but will be the first former federal public defender to join the high court. The Harvard-educated judge, who once clerked for her predecessor, will remain on the D.C. appeals court until Breyer steps down.

Politically, Jackson’s confirmation amounts to a major win during a difficult stretch for Biden. His approval ratings are stuck in the low 40s despite record low unemployment and his unifying of NATO allies in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

And the support Jackson won from Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah marked a rare and high-profile bipartisan achievement for Biden and Democrats in an era of bitter political battles.

With midterm elections looming, voting rights and police reform legislation given up for dead, and the president’s domestic agenda still in limbo, this accomplishment may also be Biden’s best shot at convincing Black voters who helped him win his party’s nomination and the presidency that he has delivered for them.

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