WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden hosted Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson at the White House on Friday to celebrate her historic confirmation by the Senate to serve as the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.
To cheers and applause, Biden stood with Vice President Kamala Harris — the first Black woman to hold that elected office — and Jackson at the event on the South Lawn.
“We’re going to look back and see this as a moment of real change in American history,” Biden said, adding he had thought about the importance of nominating a Black woman to the Supreme Court “for a long, long time.”
During the confirmation process, he said, "We all saw the kind of justice she’ll be: fair and impartial, thoughtful, careful, precise, brilliant, a brilliant legal mind with deep knowledge of the law, and a judicial temperament — which was equally important, in my view — that’s calm and in command, and a humility that allows so many Americans to see themselves in Ketanji Brown Jackson."
In the face of what he described as "vile" assertions from GOP members, Biden said Jackson "showed the incredible character and integrity she possesses — poise, poise and composure, patience and restraint. And, yes, perseverance and even joy." Republican senators accused Jackson of being soft on crime, attacking her sentencing record as well as her time as a defense attorney.
"You are the very definition of what the Irish refer to as dignity," said the president, who frequently invokes his Irish heritage.
Jackson expressed deep gratitude for those who supported her throughout the confirmation process.
It has taken more than 230 years "and 115 prior appointments for a Black woman to be selected to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States," she said, her eyes at times tearing up and her voice thick with emotion. "But we’ve made it, we’ve made it. All of us."
"So as I take on this new role, I strongly believe that this is a moment in which all Americans can take great pride," Jackson said. "We have come a long way toward perfecting our union. In my family, it took just one generation to go from segregation to the Supreme Court of the United States. And it is an honor — the honor of a lifetime — for me to have this chance to join the court, to promote the rule of law at the highest level, and to do my part to carry our shared project of democracy and equal justice under law forward into the future."
Harris said the belief that America could form a more perfect union had pushed the nation forward for generations, "And it is that belief that we reaffirmed yesterday" with the Senate's vote to confirm Jackson.
Harris, who presided over the vote, told Jackson that she drafted a note to her goddaughter, who wore braids "just a little longer than yours," while the senators were voting.
"And I told her that I felt such a deep sense of pride and joy and about what this moment means for our nation and for her future," the vice president said.
"So, indeed, the road toward our more perfect union is not always straight, and it is not always smooth, but sometimes it leads to a day like today, a day that reminds us what is possible, what is possible when progress is made, and that the journey, well, it will always be worth it."
The Senate confirmed Jackson on Thursday in a 53-47 vote. Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine; Lisa Murkowski of Alaska; and Mitt Romney of Utah joined all 50 Democratic caucus members.
Those three Republicans will not be attending the event Friday as Collins has tested positive for Covid and Murkowski is in Alaska for an event and a spokesperson for Romney said he was not going. The Utah Republican and former 2012 GOP presidential nominee was the lone Republican to join in the loud applause that erupted for Jackson's confirmation after the vote.
Biden watched the vote unfold Thursday with Jackson at the White House.
Jackson will not become a justice until the end of the court's current term — likely in June or July — when Justice Stephen Breyer is expected to step down, and Biden makes good on a major campaign promise to put the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.
Once Jackson takes her place on the bench, the high court will still maintain a 6-3 conservative balance because she's replacing a liberal justice.