- Jackson makes history as the first Black woman and first federal public defender to sit on the court.
- Jackson will replace Associate Justice Stephen Breyer after he retires at the end of the term.
- The White House ceremony comes amid a wave of positive COVID-19 cases among top Biden officials.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will deliver remarks Friday at a ceremony marking the Senate’s historic confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson, giving the White House and Democratic allies an opportunity to celebrate the first Black woman headed to the Supreme Court.
Vice President Kamala Harris kicked off the ceremony, noting Jackson will join a court that “will answer fundamental questions about who we are and what kind of country we live in.”
“You will inspire generations of leaders,” Harris said at the ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House. “They will watch your confirmation hearings and read your decisions in the years to come.”
The Senate voted 53-47 Thursday to confirm Jackson, a U.S. appeals court judge for the D.C. district. Three Republicans – Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mitt Romney of Utah – joined all 50 Democratic senators to confirm the 116th justice. She will replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.
“This is a tremendously historic day in the White House and in the country, and this is a fulfillment of a promise the president made to the country,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said shortly after the vote.
More:Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmed by Senate as first Black woman on Supreme Court
Biden vowed to nominate the nation’s first African American Supreme Court justice during the 2020 presidential campaign, eventually choosing the 51-year-old Jackson over two other candidates he interviewed. He nominated Jackson on Feb. 25, setting off a quick seven-week confirmation process.
As Biden struggles with low approval numbers, Jackson’s confirmation marks a major victory for him and his party. The president has been dogged by high inflation, the ongoing pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine.
More:Jackson confirmed in a hurry. Getting on the Supreme Court? That’ll take time.
While Republican members of the committee largely praised Jackson’s character and demeanor, they seized on her sentencing in child pornography cases to accuser her of being soft on crime. They also pushed Jackson on hot political wedge issues such as gender identity and critical race theory. But with Collins, Romney and Murkowski bucking their party to support Biden’s nominee, the White House was able to avoid a potential tie in the evenly divided Senate.
The White House ceremony comes amid a wave of positive COVID-19 cases among top Biden officials and other high-ranking Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Attorney General Merrick Garland, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Jamal Simmons, communications director for Vice President Kamala Harris. Biden’s sister, Valerie Biden Owens, also tested positive for COVID-19.
More:Speaker Nancy Pelosi tests positive for COVID-19 as outbreak spreads among government officials in DC
The White House has said Biden was not in “close contact” with any of the officials including Pelosi, who interacted with Biden at White House events both Tuesday and Wednesday.
Psaki said she wasn’t aware of any additional testing, social distancing or masking requirements that will be taken for the ceremony. She pushed back at comparisons between Friday’s event for Jackson and a 2020 White House celebration hosted by thenPresident Donald Trump for Justice Amy Coney Barrett, which turned into a super-spreader gathering.
“At that point in time, vaccines were unavailable. People were not vaccinated,” Psaki said. “It certainly puts us in a different space. This event is also going to be outside.”
A wide variety of individuals were invited to the ceremony, the White House said Friday, including Jackson’s family and all the Senators who voted for her.
The attendees include several cabinet members, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge. Ten Senators are also in attendance, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. Dozens of House members, including many who are part of the Congressional Black Caucus, are also at the ceremony.
The crowd of prominent Democrats, civil rights leaders and White House officials appeared to number around 1,000. They sat in white fold-out chairs, 8 rows deep, as an orchestra played to the side before the president’s arrival. Most in attendance were not wearing masks despite a wave of recent positive COVID-19 cases among top Democrats and Biden administration officials.
Jackson might have to wait as long as three months before officially joining the nation’s highest court. Breyer, who announced his retirement in January, has said he intends to finish the Supreme Court term, which will probably end in late June or early July.
Contributing: Dylan Wells and John Fritze
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison and Rebecca Morin @rebeccamorin_