The Senate approved Ketanji Brown Jackson on Thursday, making her the first Black woman on the Supreme Court and fulfilling a campaign pledge made by President Joe Biden to diversify the federal court.
The decision to give the 51-year-old federal appellate judge a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court was 53-47, with three Republicans joining Biden’s Democratic colleagues. Jackson overcame Republican resistance in a politicised Supreme Court nomination process.
Ketanji Brown Jackson will replace the 83-year-old Breyer on a court with a 6-3 conservative majority. Breyer will continue until the current term finishes in late June, and Jackson will be sworn in after that. Jackson was Breyer’s Supreme Court clerk early in her career.
Senator Raphael Warnock, one of the three Black senators, remarked before the vote: “I’m a Black parent. I know how much it meant to Judge Jackson to having overcome prejudice and sexism to be here now. Seeing Judge Jackson climb to the Supreme Court symbolises our democracy’s promise of development. America had a terrific day.”
Since its inception in 1789, the Supreme Court has had 115 white members. Clarence Thomas, appointed in 1991, is still serving, as is Thurgood Marshall, who retired in 1991 and died in 1993. Only one Hispanic has ever served on it, Sonia Sotomayor. Jackson will be the sixth female justice.
Nominations to the Supreme Court have become a political hot potato. In addition to abortion, the court has a large impact on voting laws and LGBT rights as well as religious freedom and the death penalty.
Before Jackson takes the court, the Supreme Court will decide issues that might reverse the 1973 landmark decision legalising abortion nationally and extend gun rights.
According to her “disturbing” judicial record, which includes infusing personal policy preferences into judgements and treating convicted felons as kindly as possible, Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican, blasted Jackson during the discussion before the vote.
Vice President Kamala Harris, Biden’s 2020 presidential running mate, presided over the voting. A VP Harris official said Jackson will be a “outstanding” justice.