Issue of a Supreme Court Vacancy Heats Up on 2 Fronts

McConnell's stance on a Biden pick and confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 15, 2021 7:53 AM CDT
Issue of a Supreme Court Vacancy Heats Up on 2 Fronts
In this April 2021 photo, Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee.   (Kevin Lamarque/Pool via AP)

In the last 24 hours, the question of whether President Biden will be able to put a judge on the Supreme Court intensified on two fronts. The first came when Mitch McConnell made clear that if Republicans regain control of the Senate next year, he would almost certainly block a Biden pick in 2023 and 2024. Meanwhile, a woman widely considered to be a Biden frontrunner for a Supreme Court vacancy won confirmation to a powerful appeals court. Coverage:

  • The judge: The Senate confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson, 50, to the US Court of Appeals for DC by a vote of 53-44. She's a Harvard grad and former clerk for Stephen Breyer and is on everybody's short list as a Biden pick, reports the Wall Street Journal. Jackson has been a federal trial judge since 2013 and before that represented indigent defendants as a public defender.

  • Small world: Jackson will replace Merrick Garland on the DC court, considered the second highest court in the US, per the New York Times. Garland, of course, is now the attorney general, and it was his nomination to the Supreme Court that McConnell famously derailed in 2016. The DC court is considered to be an "incubator" for Supreme Court justices, according to the Times, and Biden had pledged to nominate a Black woman should a vacancy arrive.
  • Timing: All of the above means that more pressure than ever will be on Breyer to announce his retirement later this month, at the end of the current term, writes Chris Cillizza at CNN. He notes that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez publicly said she would "lean toward yes" when asked over the weekend if the 82-year-old should quit now. So far, no Democratic senators have said anything to that effect publicly. Should Breyer stay on, the stakes in next year's fight for Senate control will be "especially large," notes Cillizza.
  • Not a slam dunk: Breyer stepping down in 2022 gives Democrats a much better chance of filling a court opening, and Jackson is the likely pick, but that still doesn't mean an "easy path" for her, notes the Politico Nightly newsletter. "Justice Amy Coney Barrett won three Democratic votes in 2017 for her own appellate court nomination," but when "Trump picked Barrett for the high court three years later, every Senate Democrat voted no." Democrats could afford zero defections.
(Read more federal judges stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.