Biden marks Judge Jackson's historic confirmation at White House event

By Aditi Sangal, Ji Min Lee, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 3:55 p.m. ET, April 8, 2022
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3:50 p.m. ET, April 8, 2022

Ketanji Brown Jackson: "We've made it. All of us."

(Andrew Harnik/AP)
(Andrew Harnik/AP)

In her speech at the White House on Friday, Ketanji Brown Jackson noted the long road it took to have a Black woman appointed to the US 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," she said amid applause and cheers. "But we've made it. We've made it. All of us. All of us."

"Our children are telling me that they see now more than ever that here in America, anything is possible," she said.

She acknowledged that she has been "flooded with thousands of notes" from people, but the ones from children are "especially meaningful."

"Because more than anything, they speak directly to the hope and promise of America," she said.

The justice-to-be paid tribute to her role models as she recognized that children now see her as one.

Children "also tell me that I am a role model, which I take both as an opportunity and as a huge responsibility," she said. "I am feeling up to the task, primarily because I know that I am not alone. I am standing on the shoulders of my own role models — generations of Americans who never had anything close to this kind of opportunity, but who got up every day and went to work believing in the promise of America."


3:55 p.m. ET, April 8, 2022

Ketanji Brown Jackson: "It is the greatest honor of my life to be here"

(Susan Walsh/AP)
(Susan Walsh/AP)

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson opened her remarks at a White House event celebrating her historic Supreme Court confirmation by marking the significance of the moment and expressing her "heartfelt thanks."

"It is the greatest honor of my life to be here," she said, as she continued to thank her family, faith, her mentors, colleagues, President Biden for nominating her and former President Barack Obama for appointing her to a federal district court, among others.

"Over these past few weeks, you have heard a lot from me and about me so I hope to use this time primarily to do something that I have not had sufficient time to do — which is to extend my heartfelt thanks to the many, many people who have helped me as part of this incredible journey," she said.


1:58 p.m. ET, April 8, 2022

Biden: Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation process was beyond "painful and difficult"

President Biden spoke at the White House event celebrating the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the next Supreme Court justice, and said he knew she would have to go through "a painful and difficult confirmation process," but the actual confirmation went "well beyond that."

"I knew the person I nominated would be put through a painful and difficult confirmation process. But I have to tell you, what Judge Jackson was put through was well beyond that. It was verbal abuse, the anger, the constant interruptions, the most vile, baseless assertions and accusations," he said Friday.

But she showed "incredible character and integrity" in the face of it all, he added.

"Poise and composure. Patience and restraint. And, yes, perseverance and even joy," he said amid applause and cheer for the judge. "Judge, you are the very definition of what we Irish refer to as dignity. You have enormous dignity."

Biden shared that when he decided to run to be the President of the United States, he could see that nominating a Black woman to the Supreme Court would be a "day of hope."

"A day of promise, a day of progress, a day when once again the moral arc of the universe... bends a little more toward justice," he said.


1:01 p.m. ET, April 8, 2022

Vice President Kamala Harris: "Judge Jackson, you will inspire generations of leaders"

Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at a White House event to celebrate the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as a Supreme Court justice.

Harris noted that the confirmation "reaffirmed" former President George Washington's belief that the United States could "form a more perfect union."

"Judge Jackson, you will inspire generations of leaders. They will watch your confirmation hearings and read your decisions," Harris said Friday.

"In the years to come, the court will answer fundamental questions about who we are and what kind of country we live in. Will we expand opportunity or restrict it? Will we strengthen the foundations of our great democracy? Or let them crumble? Will we move forward or backward? The young leaders of our nation will learn from the experience, the judgment, the wisdom that you, Judge Jackson, will apply in every case that comes before you."

Harris applauded that Americans will see four women justices at the Supreme Court for the first time and shared that she wrote a letter to her goddaughter after the confirmation vote.

"I told her that I felt such a deep sense of pride and joy. And about what this moment means for our nation and for her future," she said.

"I will tell you, her braids are just a little longer than yours. But as I wrote to her, I told her what I knew this would mean for her life and all that she has in terms of potential," Harris said. "So indeed the road toward our more perfect union is not always straight. And it is not always smooth. But sometimes it leads to a day like today."


2:01 p.m. ET, April 8, 2022

Biden: We will look back and "see this as a moment of real change in American history"

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

As Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson stood beside him, President Biden praised her confirmation to the Supreme Court and the impact it will have on the country.

"This is not only a sunny day, I mean this from the bottom of my heart. This is going to let so much shine, sun shine on so many young women, so many young Black women, so many minorities. That it's real. It's real! We're going to look back — and nothing to do with me — we're going to look back and see this as a moment of real change in American history," Biden said at the White House.

"Yesterday we all witnessed a truly historic moment, presided over by the vice president. There are moments that people go back in history and they're literally historic. Consequential. Fundamental shifts in American policy," Biden said.

"And today is a good day. A day that history is going to remember, and in the years to come they are going to be proud of what we did — what Dick Durbin did as chairman of the committee," Biden said.

12:50 p.m. ET, April 8, 2022

NOW: Biden celebrates Jackson's historic Supreme Court confirmation at White House

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

(Andrew Harnik/AP)
(Andrew Harnik/AP)

President Biden is hosting an event at the White House to mark the historic confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.

Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Jackson will all deliver remarks at the event on the South Lawn of the White House.

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Judge Jackson in a vote that paves the way for her to become the first Black woman to serve on the nation's highest court. Jackson's confirmation is a significant bipartisan victory for Democrats that comes at a time when the US faces a number of challenges at home and abroad, including Russia's invasion of Ukraine and sky-high inflation.

12:43 p.m. ET, April 8, 2022

Harris tested negative for Covid-19 today and won't wear mask while "distanced," White House official says

From CNN's Jasmine Wright

Vice President Kamala Harris tested negative for Covid-19 today, a White House official said, adding that the vice president will not wear a mask while “distanced” but will when she is around others.

Harris is at the White House’s confirmation celebration for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson currently being held outside on the South Lawn.

“The Vice President continues to be tested for COVID-19. She tested today, and was negative. While she is distanced today, she will not be masked. When she is around others, she will mask,” the official said.

This guidance comes after her office faced questions about her lack of mask use in the Senate chamber Thursday when she presided over the vote to confirm Judge Jackson to the Supreme Court. A White House official said Harris had consulted with a White House physician, was “practicing social distancing” and had “limited and brief interactions from her chair.”

But current CDC recommendations specify that an individual who is considered to be a close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 should wear a mask around others for 10 days after from the date of the last contact. The guidelines do not say that person can be maskless around others if they are practicing social distancing. 

In revealing communications director Jamal Simmons’ positive Covid test and Harris’ close contact with him, the vice president’s office said yesterday that Harris would “follow CDC guidance for those that have been in close contact with a positive individual.” It separately pointed CNN to specific CDC guidance that Harris would follow, which in part says the person should “wear a well-fitting mask while around other people for 10 days from the date of last close contact.”

12:12 p.m. ET, April 8, 2022

Jackson will stay on US court of appeals until she's sworn in as a Supreme Court justice this summer

From CNN's Betsy Klein, Phil Mattingly, Ariane De Vogue

(Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
(Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was confirmed by the Senate to be the next Supreme Court Justice on Thursday, will remain in her current position on the US Court of Appeals until she is sworn in this summer following Justice Stephen Breyer's retirement, the White House says.

"Judge Jackson will remain on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit until she is sworn in as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court following Justice Breyer’s formal retirement at the end of the Court’s current term. That will take place at the end of June or the beginning of July. Judge Jackson will continue to recuse from all cases on the D.C. Circuit as she has since the President nominated her," a White House official tells CNN.

Jackson will appear alongside President Biden at an event today at the White House.

After Breyer retires, Jackson will take two oaths and eventually have an investiture ceremony, which generally entails having the chief justice administer the Constitutional Oath privately to the new justice in the justices’ conference room, the commission is presented and read aloud in the courtroom and the chief justice administers the Judicial Oath in the courtroom, according to the Supreme Court's website.

12:19 p.m. ET, April 8, 2022

Covid-19 pandemic looms over celebratory White House event

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

Guests begin to gather on the South Lawn of the White House where President Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, will speak and celebrate the confirmation of Jackson as the first Black woman to reach the Supreme Court, Friday, April 8, 2022 in Washington.
Guests begin to gather on the South Lawn of the White House where President Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, will speak and celebrate the confirmation of Jackson as the first Black woman to reach the Supreme Court, Friday, April 8, 2022 in Washington. (Susan Walsh/AP)

As President Biden is set to celebrate the historic confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the US Supreme Court, the Covid-19 pandemic will loom over the event on the South Lawn of the White House.

The event comes days after two members of Biden's Cabinet — Attorney General Merrick Garland and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo — announced they tested positive for Covid-19.

Several high-profile Washington figures, including lawmakers and other White House and administration staffers, also tested positive after attending the annual Gridiron dinner, an event that brings together some of the city's most prominent journalists, including from CNN, and the government officials they cover.

Last year, a White House event where former President Trump announced his choice to nominate then-Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court was ultimately labeled by public health experts as a coronavirus superspreader event. At least a dozen people who were at the Rose Garden event — including Trump — confirmed they had contracted Covid-19 shortly after their attendance. Vaccinations for Covid-19 were not yet available and would be authorized months later.

At the time, the tightly packed ceremony where public health guidance was flouted and many went maskless and social distancing went largely unobserved underscored the Trump White House's mismanagement of the Covid-19 crisis. Trump had suggested in conversations with advisers that masked and socially distanced events would project weakness against the pandemic and could contradict his claims the outbreak was "rounding the corner."

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield on Friday told CNN's John Berman that the country is in a "very different place" in the pandemic than it was when Trump hosted the White House event for Barrett.

"Certainly we have seen an increase in cases. We know that the BA.2 variant is very transmissible. We are taking many, many precautions. We take precautions to ensure that the President is protected," Bedingfield said.

She continued, "But I do think it is important to note that, you know, it is possible he will test positive for Covid at some point. And we're in a very different place than we were for example when they held that event for Justice Barrett. Which is to say we have vaccines, we have treatments. The President is vaccinated and double boosted, and so protected from severe Covid."

The President on Wednesday interacted with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has since tested positive for Covid-19. The two were seen next to each other at a bill signing event. The White House has said Biden was not considered a close contact of Pelosi.

The White House also said the President tested negative Wednesday night as part of regularly scheduled testing and that Biden will continue to be tested regularly.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has shifted its guidance on various parts of the pandemic response a few times throughout the last two years, currently says that in general people do not need to wear masks when they are outdoors. The CDC recommends people who are not fully vaccinated wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings or during activities that involve sustained close contact with other people.