Talking Points

Ketanji Brown Jackson marks a 1st and more of the same for the Supreme Court

In any other week, a nomination to the Supreme Court would be the top story. With Russian troops nearing Kyiv this morning, President Biden's selection of Kentaji Brown Jackson earns barely a murmur. 

International events aren't the only reason Jackson's nomination won't attract much attention. Biden had already announced that he planned to keep his campaign promise to select a black woman. The pool of nominees was further narrowed by the administration's adherence to conventional criteria, including a degree from an Ivy League law school and confirmation to a previous judgeship by the Senate. Under these constraints, Jackson was the front-runner from the start.

Jackson's an unsurprising pick for other reasons, too. In her early fifties, she can be expected to join other recent nominees in serving for decades. Relative youth has become an unofficial job qualification as presidents try to squeeze the greatest impact from their appointments. Partly due to her age, Jackson also has a thin record of decisions (she has served on the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia for less than a year, and as a trial judge before that). The lack of a paper trail makes her harder to attack.

Not that Republicans won't play their part. This morning, Lindsay Graham (R-SC) tweeted that Brown's nomination "means the radical Left has won President Biden over yet again." The remark was dubious, if not surprising, because Graham was one of just three Republicans who voted in favor of Brown's nomination to the Circuit Court last year. 

Even if Graham's vote is off the table, Brown is still almost certain to be confirmed. Unless something surprising transpires in the hearings, she'll likely get support from Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), both of whom voted for her confirmation in 2021. Because it's not altogether clear whether the vice president can cast a tie-breaking vote for Supreme Court appointments, constitutional lawyers may get excited by the chance of an evenly divided outcome. Barring unforeseen events, though, this predictable nomination will proceed to its unsurprising conclusion.