For his first three federal Court of Appeals nominations, President Biden named three Black women—Ketanji Brown Jackson, Tiffany Cunningham, and Candace Jackson-Akiwumi. The Joint Center—which urged President Biden to prioritize Black federal appellate court nominations in February—commends President Biden for this major step.
The nominations are critical because the nation’s 18 Black federal appellate judges are overrepresented among judges eligible to retire. If all Black federal appellate judges eligible to retire did so tomorrow, only 5% of active federal appellate judges would be African American. Of President Trump’s 54 U.S. appellate judge nominations, none were Black. Federal appellate courts are significant to Black communities because they are the final arbiters of most lawsuits (the U.S. Supreme Court accepts only about 2% of the cases it is asked to review), and federal appellate courts determine how federal law will be construed on issues that have not been ruled on by the Supreme Court.
President Biden’s nomination of U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit is a major stepping stone for her to possibly serve in the U.S. Supreme Court, as Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer may retire soon. Judge Jackson, who formerly clerked for Justice Breyer, has served on the U.S. District Court for DC since 2013.
For the Seventh Circuit (which includes Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana), President Biden nominated Candace Jackson-Akiwumi. There has not been an active Black judge on the Seventh Circuit since 2018, when Judge Ann Claire Williams retired. Judge Jackson-Akiwumi’s nomination is especially significant as she will be the “first-ever former federal defender” to join the Seventh Circuit.
For the Federal Circuit, President Biden nominated Tiffany Cunningham, who would be the first Black judge ever on the Federal Circuit if confirmed by the Senate. The Federal Circuit has nationwide jurisdiction over patents, trademarks, international trade, government contracts, and a few other areas. Cunningham specializes in patent litigation as a partner at Perkins Coie LLP in Chicago and previously clerked for Judge Timothy B. Dyk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Biden releases details of infrastructure plan: Yesterday the White House released details of President Biden's proposed "American Jobs Plan." The proposal includes plans to eliminate lead water pipes and upgrade sewer systems, bring affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to every American including the more than 35 percent of rural Americans who lack access to broadband at minimally acceptable speeds, and fund research at HBCUs. The plan would also invest $100 billion in workforce development, including sector-based training and building the capacity of workforce development systems. Biden reportedly wants his $2 trillion infrastructure plan passed this summer. Read a full summary of the plan here.
Biden administration extends the Paycheck Protect Program: In an effort to provide more relief to small Black businesses who were “bypassed” during the first round of the Payment Protection Program, President Biden authorizesH.R. 1799, the “PPP Extension Act of 2021.” This bill extends the deadline to apply for a PPP loan from March 31 to May 31 and extends the loan authorization process to June 30, providing the Small Business Administration additional time to process applications.
Pandemic relief centers Black women and girls: White House staffers Kalisha Dessoures Figures and Catherine E. Lhamon wrote a post asserting that American Rescue Plan includes changes that pursueracial justice and gender equity forBlack women and girls who are 2.5 times more likely to die from pregnancy complications, are “suspended from school at higher rates than girls of any other race or ethnicity,” and face high levels of workplace discrimination, homelessness, and violence. They write that $1.9 trillion plan includes a public health corps to “mobilize 100,000 community health workers to provide culturally competent care,” ensures government approaches to equity keep in mind “the specific barriers that Black, Indigenous, and other women and girls of color face every step of the way,” and is “projected to cut poverty in the Black community by 38 percent.”
Georgia voter suppression renews federal push for Voting Rights Act, H.R. 1, and filibuster reform: After massive turnout by Black Georgians that resulted in Republicans losing control of the U.S. Senate, last Thursday Georgia Republicans enacted state election laws that many claim would suppress Black votes. The laws put restrictions on drop boxes for absentee ballots, would make it a misdemeanor to provide food or water to voters in line (Black voters often have longer wait times to vote), ban mobile voting units which help African Americans access early voting, and more.
In response, federal lawmakers are working to update a provision of the Voting Rights Act that required federal preapproval of new state and local election laws to ensure they are not discriminatory (had such preclearance been in effect, Georgia officials would have had to prove to federal officials that new election laws are not discriminatory before the new laws are used in an election). Lawmakers are also working to pass HR 1 - For the People Act of 2021, which could open voter access in federal elections by expanding automatic and same-day registration, vote-by-mail, and early voting, and by limiting the purging of voters from voter rolls.
Both federal bills face the possibility of a Senate filibuster, and President Biden and many Democrats are calling for federal filibuster reform. Senator Warnock (D-GA) pointed out the hypocrisy of lawmakers arguing to preserve the filibuster to protect the minority voting rights of Senators so that they can effectively dilute the voting rights of voters of color in places like Georgia.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi taps Major General William Walker to be the first African American to lead U.S. security: According to Reuters, Commander Walker “criticized the Pentagon for taking hours to approve a request by the U.S. Capitol Police for National Guard troops to help respond to the deadly Jan. 6 attack on Congress by supporters of Donald Trump.” He has commanded the DC National Guard since 2018 and has 39 years of military experience.
Senate confirms Adewale “Wally” Adeyamo as Deputy Treasury Secretary. Adeyamo is the first Black person in the number two spot at Treasury.
Biden nominates Ron Davis for Director of the United States Marshal Service. He previously served in the Obama Administration as the Director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) in the U.S. Department of Justice.
Biden nominates Victoria Wassmer for Assistant Secretary for Budget and Programs and Chief Financial Officer, Department of Transportation. She currently serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Finance and Budget at the Department of Transportation.
CBC Members urge Biden to tap Mehrsa Baradaran for OCC: Thirty-four members of the Congressional Black Caucus sign a one-page letter urging the Biden administration to appointMehrsa Baradaran as the Comptroller of the Currency. The CBC describes Baradaran as “a superb scholar and shopper advocate who has devoted her profession to understanding and narrowing the racial wealth hole” and names her appointment as “transformative” given the position's obligation to bridge racial wealth gaps and alleviate “the persistent subject of wealth inequality.”
Biden appoints Jeremy Adamson as a Policy Advisor for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs in the Foreign Agricultural Service at USDA. He previously served as a Portfolio Manager at Certis USA.