© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden and his Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson watch as the full U.S. Senate votes to confirm Jackson as the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, from the Roosevelt Room at the White House i
By Alexandra Alper and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House will celebrate the confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court in an outdoor event on Friday as coronavirus cases among Washington’s political elite rise.
Jackson was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday in a milestone for the United States and a victory for President Joe Biden, who made good on a campaign promise to nominate an African American woman to the post as he seeks to infuse the federal judiciary with a broader range of backgrounds.
Black women are a key Democratic constituency and helped propel Biden to the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 with a win in the South Carolina primary.
Biden is suffering in opinion polls, thanks in part to high inflation and concerns about the pandemic, and Jackson’s confirmation could be a needed jolt to excite Black voters and other left-leaning voters head of the November midterm elections, when Democrats risk losing control of one or both houses of Congress.
Biden and Jackson will deliver remarks on Friday at 12:15 pm ET (1615 GMT) on the White House South Lawn.
The outdoor venue was chosen in part in a nod to COVID-19 safety, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said, amid a rise in cases of the highly infectious disease in the region and a raft of top Democrats in Biden’s inner circle contracting the virus.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tested positive on Thursday morning, after appearing with Biden at crowded indoor events on Tuesday and Wednesday. Commerce Department Secretary Gina Raimondo and House Democrat Adam Schiff also got positive results back in recent days.
“Certainly we do know that it is better to have events outside when you can have them outside. Also we want to be able to invite a large number of people and this would enable us to do that. So these are the biggest factors,” Psaki said.
Biden tested negative following his interaction with Pelosi, which the White House stressed should not be considered contact. According to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a close contact means 15 minutes within 6 feet of an infected individual in a 24 hour period.
The decision to hold the event outside comes after former President Donald Trump’s nomination ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett in 2020 became infamous as a coronavirus super spreader event, striking many top Republicans who attended.