The fight over President Obama’s eventual Supreme Court nominee could get personal for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
One of names being floated as a possible pick is someone who Ryan calls family: D.C. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Connected by marriage, Jackson’s husband, Patrick Jackson, is the twin brother of Ryan’s brother-in-law William Jackson.
Ryan even testified on Brown’s behalf when she was nominated to the district court in 2012, offering his “unequivocal” endorsement of her qualifications in recommending her for the bench.
“Our politics may differ, but my praise for Ketanji’s intellect, for her character, for her integrity is unequivocal,” Ryan said at her December 2012 nomination hearing. “She’s an amazing person, and I favorably recommend her consideration.”
“We’re family, by marriage,” Ryan explained in the 2012 hearing. “Her brother and sister-in-law, who are my brother and sister-in-law, William and Dana Jackson, are here with us as well today.”
Ryan's office would not comment on whether the House Speaker would support Jackson if President Obama chose her as a Supreme Court nominee but pointed to Ryan’s previous comments on replacing the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Ryan has said he supports Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s strategy to block any nominee named by the president.
“The Supreme Court is not an extension of the White House. The president has absolutely every right to nominate someone to the Supreme Court, but Congress as an equal branch also has every right not to confirm someone," Ryan said in interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel last week.
The good news for Ryan, in the event that Jackson were Obama’s pick, is that the fight over the president’s eventual nominee is contained to the Senate. The House of Representatives has no role in confirming the president’s judicial nominations.
Nonetheless, Ryan would inescapably be called upon to weigh in on the debate and would be in the awkward position of choosing between politics -- and standing with his party in a stand of unequivocal opposition to considering the president’s pick -- and his family ties.