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- Ron Klain gave credit to Rep. Jim Clyburn for the appointment of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.
- Clyburn urged Biden in 2020 to promise voters he would put the first Black woman justice on the court.
- Clyburn initially supported a different candidate but he stood by Brown once she was nominated.
Former White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain gave credit to Rep. Jim Clyburn for the appointment of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, even though the powerful 16-term lawmaker from South Carolina initially supported a different candidate for the role.
Asked for his reflections on Jackson’s historic nomination, Klain said “a lot of credit has to go to Congressman Clyburn” because he urged Biden to promise South Carolina voters that he would nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court.
“There hadn’t been a lot of history of promises like that mattering, but Clyburn really believed in it and he sold the president on it,” Klain said during a conversation with Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick at a Thursday night event honoring his work shaping the judiciary.
That promise was important to Clyburn, whose endorsement played a big role in Biden becoming president. In their book, “Lucky: How Joe Biden Barely Won the Presidency,” authors Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes describe Clyburn, lecturing Biden back stage at a South Carolina debate to make the pledge.
“I’m telling you, don’t you leave the stage tonight without making it known that you will do that,” Clyburn is quoted as saying. Biden wedged in the promise at the end of the debate and Clyburn endorsed him the next day.
“It might have happened otherwise…” Klain said on Thursday. “But I think it was a good thing, that this issue got elevated in that way.”
“Partly what makes this sustainable is if there’s continued political support for an aggressive approach on this issue,” he said.
Clyburn initially supported Judge J. Michelle Childs, a district court judge from his home state, to replace Justice Stephen Bryer. But he defended Jackson during confirmation battles, urged “strong bipartisan support” for her, and said she “will make an extraordinary Supreme Court Justice” when she was sworn in.
Klain said he got to know Jackson while serving with her on the Board of Visitors of Harvard Law School. She was a finalist when President Barack Obama selected now-Attorney General Merrick Garland for a Supreme Court nomination, he said.
“She was obviously top of mind when the president made that promise back in South Carolina and top of mind when Judge Garland stepped down to become Attorney General Garland,” Klain said.
She was Biden’s first judicial nomination when he nominated her to replace Garland on DC Circuit Court “with the thought in mind that doing that would test her confirmability and give her even more credentials to be a Supreme Court nominee when we had the first vacancy on the court.”