President Joe Biden blasted Republican attacks against Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson at her confirmation hearings during a celebration of her ascent to the Supreme Court on Friday.
Mr Biden, who as a senator was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that oversees Supreme Court confirmations, said that he expected that the woman he would nominate to replace Justice Stephen Breyer would face a tough confirmation process but that he was appalled by the way she was treated in her hearings.
“It was verbal abuse,” Mr Biden said during a speech on the South Lawn of the White House a day after the Senate voted to confirm her 53 to 47. “The anger, the constant interruptions, the most vile, baseless assertions & accusations. In the face of it all, Judge Jackson showed the incredible character & integrity she possesses.”
At the same time, he praised Senators Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine for their confirmation votes.
“I hope I don’t get them in trouble but I want to thank three Republicans who voted for Judge Jackson,” he said. “Senator Collins, who is a woman of integrity. Senator Murkowski, who is the same way in Alaska, up for reelection. And Mitt Romney, whose dad stood up like he did. His dad stood up and made these decisions on civil rights.”
Mr Biden said the day was a fulfillment of his campaign pledge to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court.
“When I made a commitment to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court I could see this day,” he said.
Applause rang out across the South Lawn when Judge — soon to be Justice — Jackson’s parents, Ellery and Johnny Brown, emerged from the West Wing, flanked by her two daughters, Talia and Leila.
Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black woman to service in her role, noted the historic nature of the confirmation.
“Judge Jackson, you will inspire generations of leaders,” she said. “They will watch your confirmation hearings and read your decisions.”
Ms Harris said she drafted a note to her goddaughter about the confirmation.
The celebration came a day after the Senate 53 to 47 voted to confirm Ms Jackson to be the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
Attendees began arriving more than an hour before the scheduled start of the event, making the atmosphere on White House South Lawn something more akin to a rock festival or a joyous family reunion than the solemn swearing-in of a Justice on the nation’s highest court.
Some guests greeted each other with hugs as if they hadn’t seen each in years — a strong possibility given the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Rev Sharpton, wearing a narrow pinstripe suit and a broad smile, sat next to another civil rights legend, Rev Jesse Jackson. Though Rev Jackson, who has Parkinson’s disease, sat in a wheelchair, he occasionally stood with the help of an aide to snap photos with other attendees.
The man who’d shepherded Judge Jackson’s confirmation through an evenly divided Senate, former senator Doug Jones, strode about the lawn like a conquering hero, occasionally pausing to receive congratulatory embraces from former colleagues, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Mr Biden noted that he has nominated more Black women to the federal bench than all of his predecessors combined, and has appointed numerous women of colour to his cabinet.
“it’s a powerful thing when people can see themselves in others — I bet every one of you can go back and think of a time in your life where there was a teacher and family member, neighbor, somebody who made you believe that you can be whatever you want it to be. It’s a powerful, powerful, powerful notion,” he said, adding that the idea of representation is why he believes “so strongly” that the Supreme Court should “look like America”.
“People of every generation of every race of every background felt this moment, and they feel it now. They feel a sense of pride and hope and belonging and believing and knowing the promise America includes everybody, all of us,” he said. “That’s the American experiment”.