WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday basked in the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, hailing what he called a moment of “real change” in American history as he and his supporters celebrated the ascension to the first Black woman to the court.
Flanked by Jackson and Vice President Kamala Harris — the first Black woman to hold the role and whom he called the first “smart” decision of his presidency — Biden said the judge’s confirmation had changed not only his own trajectory but the course of American life itself.
“This is going to let so much sun shine on so many young women, so many young Black women, so many minorities,” the president said in remarks on the White House South Lawn. “That is real.”
Biden said Jackson had endured “verbal abuse” and “vile” personal attacks but had shown poise through more than 20 hours of questioning in confirmation hearings that had at times turned bruising.
White House officials said they had invited the judge’s family, all current and former Supreme Court justices and three Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah — who voted with Democrats on Thursday to confirm Jackson, lending a modicum of bipartisanship to an otherwise bitterly polarized process. The Republican senators were not in attendance at the event Friday.
A spate of positive coronavirus cases among lawmakers and administration officials this week whittled down the prospective guest list. Collins said Thursday that she had tested positive, as did several Democrats who had been near Biden in recent days, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. The president was last tested Wednesday evening, a White House official said Friday morning, hours before the ceremony.
Jackson’s confirmation is a major victory for Biden, who once revived his flagging presidential campaign by pledging to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court if elected. He and his advisers were intent on celebrating a promise fulfilled.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Thursday that Biden’s experience as the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee “gave him historically exceptional preparation” for a successful nomination process.
“She began her prep work immediately, starting the day after she was announced, and promised to meet with anyone who wanted to and honored it, meeting with 97 senators over the course of her consultations,” Psaki said.
At the White House on Thursday, Biden and Jackson watched the vote together from the Roosevelt Room. The White House shared video from the president’s Instagram account of the moment when the two watched Harris declare the 53-47 vote in favor of the judge’s confirmation.
“All right!” Biden exclaimed, pumping his fist and wrapping his other arm around Jackson, who clasped her hands and smiled. “OK.”
The president then took a selfie with the judge in front of a television screen displaying the final vote count. Psaki said Thursday that reporters were not allowed into the room because the moment was a private one and the South Lawn party was for a wider audience.
Jackson will not be sworn in for months. Justice Stephen Breyer, whom she will replace on the bench, has said he plans to retire this summer, at the end of the current term.
Jackson was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Miami. She graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Breyer’s alma mater, and went on to clerk for him during the 1999-2000 Supreme Court term.
While her confirmation does not change the court’s ideological balance — conservatives appointed by Republicans retain their 6-3 majority — it achieved another first: All three justices appointed by Democratic presidents will be women.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.