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Wake Up To Politics - April 8, 2022

Wake Up To Politics: KBJ makes history
Wake Up To Politics - April 8, 2022

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Friday, April 8, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 214 days away. Election Day 2024 is 942 days away.

Jackson confirmed as first Black female Supreme Court justice

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed to the Supreme Court on Thursday, becoming the first Black woman to ascend to the nation’s highest court in its 233-year history.

The Senate confirmed Jackson in a 53-47 vote, with Republican Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Mitt Romney (R-UT) joining all 50 Democrats in support.

The vote came after confirmation process which was more bruising than expected, amid extensive Republican attacks on her sentencing record for child sex offenders. In total, the process took 39 days, one of the speediest paths to the Supreme Court in recent history.

Judge Jackson will not become Justice Jackson immediately, however. Justice Stephen Breyer, whose seat Jackson is filling, is not formally retiring until the Supreme Court’s current term ends in June. Jackson can be sworn in then, but she will not begin hearing cases until the next term begins in October.

According to the New York Times, that waiting period appears to be the longest in Supreme Court history.

When she does join, it will be as a member of a changed court. For the first time in history, White men will be in the minority on the nine-justice Supreme Court. Jackson will join one other Black justice (Clarence Thomas) and three other female justices (Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Amy Coney Barrett).

Ketanji Brown Jackson will be the first Black female justice in Supreme Court history. (Cameron Smith / White House)

Still, even as the identity of the court will shift, its ideological makeup will remain the same. Jackson is replacing another justice appointed by a Democratic president; she is likely to rule similarly to Breyer, who she once clerked for.

As such, the court’s 6-3 conservative majority will remain intact even with Jackson’s confirmation. That means her main impact — at least in the coming years — could come in writing dissents as her colleagues push through potentially transformative rulings on abortion, affirmative action, guns, and other issues.

At least, that will be true for now. Jackson is 51 years old; if she retires at the age Breyer is now, she would stay on the Supreme Court until 2054.

Jackson brings a varied résumé to the court. In addition to clerking for Breyer, she also served as a public defender in Washington, D.C. and as a a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

She first joined the federal bench in 2013 when then-President Barack Obama appointed her to the D.C. district court; President Biden named her to the powerful circuit court in D.C. last year.

Jackson, who holds two Harvard degrees, will be the first public defender ever to serve as a Supreme Court justice.

Catch up

What else you need to know.

Ukraine: “A Russian missile attack on a train station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk killed 39 and injured dozens more people trying to flee the eastern Donbas region, Ukrainian authorities said Friday, as Moscow focuses its attention on a renewed offensive there.” Wall Street Journal

  • “The U.N. General Assembly voted Thursday to suspend Russia from the world organization’s leading human rights body over allegations that Russian soldiers in Ukraine engaged in rights violations that the United States and Ukraine have called war crimes.” Associated Press

Congress: “United in bipartisan outrage, the Senate voted unanimously Thursday to remove Russia’s favorable trade status and to ban the import of its energy products and the House followed a short while later, clearing the bills for the president to sign.” Roll Call

  • Covid continues to race through Capitol Hill: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), and Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) are among the latest positive cases.

Trump: “The Justice Department has begun taking steps to investigate former president Donald Trump’s removal of presidential records to Mar-a-Lago — some of which were labeled “top secret,” people familiar with the matter said.” Washington Post

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tested positive for Covid-19. (Gage Skidmore)

Global: Pro-Putin candidates rise in European elections

By Miles Hession, WUTP global contributor

Springtime elections across Europe have seen a surge of support for right-wing candidates, creating a threat to European solidarity in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Elections in Hungary and Serbia, as well as the upcoming presidential election in France, have shown a surge of strength of  some Putin-aligned politicians across the continent.

In Hungary, prime minister Viktor Orbán secured a “crushing” landslide victory over his pro-E.U. opponent. Orbán has long had warm relations with Moscow, much to the ire of the E.U., but Russia’s invasion put him in a difficult position.

On one hand, he opened the borders of Hungary to thousands of Ukrainian refugees and joined Western sanctions on Russia; however, he has also blocked E.U. sanctions on Russian energy imports and is the only E.U. leader who has criticized Ukrainian prime minister Volodymr Zelenskyy or  cast doubt over which side  instigated the war.

Orbán has also refused to supply Ukraine with any weapons and refused to allow countries to transit weapons through Hungary for Ukraine. Orbán’s conflict with the E.U. goes back further than the war, but his resounding electoral victory is likely to deepen those divisions further despite the threat of Russia to the bloc.

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen in a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin. (Kremlin)

In Serbia, a country that has ambitions for E.U. membership, incumbent president Aleksander Vucic similarly won a decisive victory over pro-E.U. opposition. Vucic, who has been criticized for a growing autocratic flair in his government, campaigned on peace and stability through neutrality.

While Vucic’s government signed onto U.N. resolutions condemning Russia’s invasion, it has refused to join any sanctions against Moscow. Serbia, like Hungary, is reliant on Russia for energy supplies, but their penchant for Russia appears to go beyond strategic resource assurances, with a “special relationship” forged over similar illiberal tendencies.

Finally, ahead of France’s first round of presidential elections on Sunday, the far-right is also gaining in polls. French president Emmanuel Macron’s lead over right-wing Marine Le Pen has shrunk to an all-time-low, with some polls putting Le Pen’s support at 47% in the second round of voting. Le Pen has had friendly relations with Putin, but it’s her long-held suspicions of the E.U. as well as her criticism of NATO that have posed the biggest risk to European solidarity.

While Macron’s track record on French domestic policy has been mixed, he has made strides to reassert France in E.U. politics and has emerged as a strong voice within NATO during the war, and has received strong global backing for doing so.

Le Pen has walked back her demands for a British style “Frexit” of the E.U., but her criticism of the bloc and alliance would undermine France’s new position as a strong backer for both institutions.

As Germany remains reluctant to enact harsher economic punishment on Russia, without France in line, the E.U.’s response to Putin could soften as the war in Ukraine rages on.

Look ahead

How your leaders in Washington are spending their time today. (All times Eastern)

Biden’s day: Receiving his daily intelligence briefing (9:45 am), delivering remarks at an event celebrating Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court (12:15 pm).

Harris’ day: Also delivering remarks at the event celebrating Jackson.

Also at the White House: Press secretary Jen Psaki holds her daily press briefing (2 pm).

On the congressional agenda: The House and Senate are both on recess until April 25.

At the Supreme Court: The justices aren’t hearing any cases until April 18. KBJ event

Links to watch for yourself: KBJ event WH briefing

Before I go...

Here’s a story to make you smile: “These second-graders helped shelter pups find their fur-ever homes,” via NPR.

Thanks to the WUTP reader who sent this story in. Send a feel-good news story you’re reading to gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com and it might get featured in the newsletter.

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If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.

Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.

— Gabe