Ketanji Brown Jackson, nominee to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit, testifies during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Dirksen Senate Office Building on April 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. Ketanji Brown Jackson, nominee to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit, and Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, nominee to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Seventh Circuit, testified on the first panel.
Who is Ketanji Brown Jackson, Biden's SCOTUS nominee?
03:09 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

President Joe Biden’s decision to nominate Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, as CNN first reported, kills two birds with one stone: It satisfies – and Biden hopes energizes – liberals while also giving Senate Democrats a nominee they can confirm without much fanfare (and maybe even with a few Republican votes).

Jackson had been the favorite for the seat since Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement last month because she checked the most boxes for a President who desperately needs a win in advance of the November midterm elections.

Start with Jackson’s appeal to the left.

Earlier this week, a dozen liberal groups sent a letter to Biden urging him to “build on your commitment to professional diversity by appointing someone with civil rights or public defense experience to the Supreme Court.” While the letter didn’t name Jackson, her background is the only one of the three finalists that fit the sort of person the letter described. (Jackson worked as a public defender for several years in the mid-2000s.)

Jackson’s support among liberals was in stark contrast to concerns they voiced about another Biden Supreme Court finalist: South Carolina’s J. Michelle Childs. “Her record looks much more like the typical corporate lawyer that the White House has purposefully tried to get away from in its attempt to remake the federal bench,” read an analysis in the American Prospect in late January.

In picking Jackson, Biden is giving his base what it wants. And he is doing so at a time when that base is quite clearly something short of enthusiastic about him and his presidency.

A recent Gallup poll, which showed Biden’s approval rating at 41% among Americans overall, also found that just 79% of Democrats said they approved of the job he was doing. That’s a sharp dip from where Biden was as recently as August 2021, when more than 90% of Democrats said they supported him. A recent CNN poll showed that while 41% of Americans “strongly” disapprove of the job Biden is doing, only 15% “strongly” approve.

Then there’s the fact that with his Build Back Better legislation stalled, Biden badly needs to start putting wins on the board – and Jackson appears to be a solid bet to be confirmed by the Senate.

Why? Because she has just been confirmed by the Senate.

In June 2021, Jackson was confirmed with 53 votes to serve on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. All 50 Democrats – including occasional renegades Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona – voted for her. And three Republicans joined them: Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.

During her confirmation hearings for that post, Jackson said that she does not “rule with partisan advantage in mind.”

It’s unclear whether the likes of Graham, Collins and Murkowski – or any other Republicans – will vote for Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court. But that she has won Republican votes in the not-too-distant past allows Biden to make the case that he doesn’t just talk the talk on bipartisanship, but that he walks the walk.

For Biden, Jackson’s nomination represents an opportunity to fix what ails him. He’s looking to change the subject – with a majority of the American public disapproving of the way he had handled the Russia situation – and she represents the best chance for him to do just that.