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The front facade of the United States Supreme Court in Washington, DC, USA.

Biden Picks Historic Supreme Court Nominee

President Joe Biden has fulfilled a campaign promise by nominating the first Black woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court. 

The president selected federal appellate judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, to take the place of retiring liberal Justice Stephen Breyer. Jackson worked as a law clerk for Breyer early in her career.

“For too long, our government, our courts haven’t looked like America,” said Biden. “I believe it’s time that we have a court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation with a nominee of extraordinary qualifications.”

If confirmed by the Senate, Jackson would be only the sixth woman in history to serve on the nation’s highest court, which has three currently serving. 

While Jackson’s confirmation would not change the court’s 6-3 conservative majority, which includes three justices appointed by former President Donald Trump, it would ensure a much younger liberal voice for potentially decades to come. It could also give President Biden more support from women, liberals and minorities in the upcoming midterm elections.

Jackson will be questioned about her background and political ideals during her Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, from March 21-24. The committee will also hear testimony from the American Bar Association and outside witnesses, then conduct a closed session to discuss her FBI background check before putting the confirmation to a debate and vote on the Senate floor.

Democrats expect an easy path to confirmation despite Republican opposition, as Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote gives them control over the 50/50 Senate. Confirmation takes only a 51 majority vote. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) eliminated the previous 60 majority vote in 2017. 

Who is Ketanji Brown Jackson?

Judge Jackon was raised in Miami and went to Harvard Law School. She began as a public defender, representing criminal defendants who couldn’t afford their own attorney. If confirmed, she would be the first Supreme Court justice to have fought for criminal defendants since Thurgood Marshall.

Jackson served as vice chairman of the U.S. Sentencing Commission when it was focused on the war on drugs. Her passion for the work stemmed from family members who served in law enforcement, as well as one sentenced to life in prison for a drug charge.  

In 2013, Jackson was nominated to the D.C. district court by President Barack Obama. She rose to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2021 after being confirmed by the Senate 53-44. 

Last December, Jackson was one of three judges to rule against Trump’s attempt to keep White House records from a congressional panel investigating the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.

Fast Track To Confirmation Anticipated

While the Supreme Court justice confirmation process historically takes an average of 70 days, President Trump was able to get his third nominee, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, confirmed in less than a month in 2020. Democrats are hoping for a similarly rapid timetable; their goal is April 8, the first day of the Senate’s spring recess.

That might be a lofty hope if not for the fact that Jackson was already confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee last year for her current position. In fact, the Supreme Court nomination would be the fourth time the Senate has voted her into a job. 

Several Republicans have voiced their opposition.

During her hearing last year, Jackson was grilled by conservatives regarding the influence of race on her decisions. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) asked whether she believed the U.S. criminal justice system was affected by systemic racism and bias.  

“Those are not terms that I use in the law when we look at issues of race … [or] to make claims based under the constitution or the applicable statutes,” she replied. 

Sen. McConnell referred to Jackson as “the favored choice of far-left dark-money groups that have spent years attacking the legitimacy and structure of the court itself.” He hopes that Republicans can recapture the Senate Majority in the midterms and block future Biden Supreme Court nominees. 

There are potential obstacles in Jackson’s path. Sen. Ben Ray Luján

(D-Nm.) is still recovering from a stroke and may not return in time for a unanimous Democratic vote. The Russia-Ukraine conflict could also put anything else in Senate consideration on the back burner for weeks to come.

If confirmed, Jackson will hear a case that could end affirmative action policies in American colleges and universities. 

At her nomination announcement, she thanked God “for delivering me to this point in my professional journey. My life has been blessed beyond measure. And I do know that one can only come this far by faith.”