Durbin, Lightfoot, Raoul, Moseley Braun: At Ketanji Brown Jackson White House Supreme Court fete
Said Mayor Lightfoot: “Being a Black woman and ascending to the heights” that Jackson “has gotten to” means “you’ve been through it all, through every fight, you know, every trick, and you know how they don’t want us to succeed.”
WASHINGTON – The sky was sunny, matching the festive mood of the crowd on the South Lawn of the White House as U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Rev. Jesse Jackson, ex-Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and others celebrated Friday the confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.
“It has taken 232 years and 115 prior appointments for a Black woman to be selected to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States,” Jackson said. “But we’ve made it. We’ve made it, all of us.”
Jackson will be the 116th Justice and the first Black woman on the nation’s highest court. She spoke after President Joe Biden and the first vice president of color, Kamala Harris.
Moseley Braun, bursting with pride when we talked, was the first female Black senator. Harris was the second. There is no third.
Lightfoot is the first Black female Chicago mayor.
Biden promised during his campaign to nominate a Black woman to his first Supreme Court vacancy. He tapped Harris, whose parents were Black and Asian, to be his vice president.
Jackson will not be sworn in as an associate justice for a few months. A former law clerk of Justice Stephen Breyer, she will replace him when he retires from the court at the end of the 2021-2022 term, sometime in June or July.
Said Jackson, “As I take on this new role, I strongly believe that this is a moment in which all Americans can take great pride. 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.”
“I wouldn’t have missed it for anything,” Lightfoot told me.
“I feel a certain level of emotion about it as a Black woman lawyer myself. And her words that her family went from segregation to the Supreme Court in one generation really resonated with me. Watching her there, seeing her family and particularly her parents, getting to see this happen is a pretty remarkable thing” - that “she maintained such incredible judicial temperament through the nastiness of the Republicans who tried everything in the book to try to demoralize her and to bait her.”
Said Lightfoot, “But see, the thing that they didn’t realize is that being a Black woman, and ascending to the heights that she has gotten to, you’ve been through it all, through every fight, you know, every trick, and you know how they don’t want us to succeed.”
Biden lavished praise on Durbin, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, for executing the strategy in a divided Senate leading to Jackson’s 53-47 confirmation vote. The three Republican votes came from Susan Collins of Maine; Lisa Murkowski of Alaska; and Mitt Romney of Utah.
When I talked to Durbin on the South Lawn, he said he always saw Collins as “our insurance policy.” Durbin personally talked to 10 Republicans. “I thought we had a good chance for Murkowski. Romney was a very pleasant surprise.”
As Biden noted, he has nominated — and Durbin has gotten confirmed — more Black women judges to the federal appeal courts than all previous presidents combined.
During the long days of the hearings, Durbin provided snacks in an anteroom, and he wanted to throw a focus on Illinois. That’s why Durbin provided individual servings of Garrett Popcorn and Beer Nuts from Bloomington.
Given the repetitive grandstanding of some senators at the Jackson hearing, Durbin said he is talking to U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican, or reducing the time each senator has allotted. Under current rules, the combined 50 minutes each senator gets “over does it,” Durbin said.
Moseley Braun decided to run for the Senate after the then-Illinois Democrat Sen. Alan Dixon voted to confirm Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court after Anita Hill’s sexual harassment accusations. There were aired at Thomas’ 1991 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, which was chaired by then-Sen. Biden. Once elected, Moseley Braun was asked by Biden to join the then all-male committee.
I asked Moseley Braun about Jackson’s confirmation. “I’m over the moon happy and delighted. This woman could not be more qualified.” She was in “awe” over how Jackson remained calm in the wake of hostile questions from Republicans.
Said Braun, “The Republicans really covered themselves in shame with this, I think.”
Jackson’s comments about her parents living in a segregated American resonated with Raoul. It means Jackson brings to the court “a perspective that can help even those who may have a more conservative perspective, as to how we should apply common law and statutory law to events of today,” he said.
Said Raoul, “You know, many have a really traditional perspective of not trying to adapt to what we’re dealing with today. Whether you’re thinking about the Second Amendment or discrimination, the various constitutional protected rights.”