Ketanji Brown Jackson Will Likely Be the Last Democratically-Appointed Justice for Years

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The Senate confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court earlier this week, making her the first black woman to serve in the highest court in the US. She’s also likely to be the last Democratically-appointed justice for as much as a decade. 

Democrats currently narrowly control the Senate, as there is a 50-50 split in the chamber and Kamala Harris acting as the tie-breaker. Because of this, most political scientists believe the party will lose as many as twelve seats by the 2024 election.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has openly stated that his party simply won’t hold any hearings for Supreme Court nominees put forth by a Democratic president.

KBJ’s Appointment

Ketanji Brown Jackson takes over the seat vacated by Stephen Breyer, keeping the court’s distribution at six justices appointed by Republicans and three appointed by Democrats. Breyer will continue to serve as a justice until the end of the current term, in either late June or early July of 2022. 

However, Jackson might be the last Supreme Court Justice that Democrats appoint to the bench for several years. Most of the Republican justices are in good health and show no signs of wanting to retire any time soon.

Likewise, Republicans in Congress have made a point of not wanting to cede any Supreme Court seats. In 2016, Mitch McConnell denied Merrick Garland a chance to have a confirmation hearing, stating that it was precedent for Congress to not hear appointments during an election year.

McConnell Dismisses Pretext

In recent interviews, McConnell has explicitly stated that his party won’t hold any confirmation hearings from Democratic presidents. This makes the Supreme Court effectively the same as any other item on the presidential agenda: without a majority of votes in Congress, it simply won’t happen.

The Republican Party has shifted much of its policy-setting to the Supreme Court. The court essentially gets the final say in matters of national policy, and justices are appointed for life.

There’s not much that the public can do if it disagrees with the high court, making it the ideal setting for unpopular policy-making.

While some Democrats have celebrated that Jackson will be the first black woman on the Supreme Court, that victory is tinged with an air of resignation. She’ll likely be one of only three Democrats on the bench for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, the court will continue to hear politically-charged cases that could have ramifications for decades to come.