White House Chooses Doug Jones To Guide Supreme Court Nominee


Doug Jones, a former Democratic senator from Alabama, will serve as a guide for President Biden’s Supreme Court nominee during the Senate confirmation process, two senior administration officials said on Tuesday.

Mr. Jones, who left the Senate in 2021 and was on a shortlist to serve as Mr. Biden’s attorney general, will be a so-called Senate sherpa for the nominee. The nickname is borrowed from mountaineers of Tibetan descent who live across the Himalayas and are known for their ability to navigate travelers across hazardous terrain.

For Mr. Biden’s nominee, the path ahead could indeed be treacherous: The president has promised to name a Black woman, a decision that has drawn complaints from Republicans and foreshadowed a contentious process. With his selection of Mr. Jones, Mr. Biden appears to be offering a pre-emptive olive branch. Mr. Jones was the first Democrat in decades to hold a Senate seat in deep-red Alabama, and he frequently co-sponsored bipartisan legislation during his three years in the Senate.

Mr. Jones has less experience in the Senate than others who have been chosen to guide Supreme Court nominees through the process, but allies in the Senate praised his track record on civil rights. As a U.S. attorney, Mr. Jones prosecuted two Klansmen, Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry, who were involved in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Four girls, ages 11 to 14, were killed in the attack. His past work added fuel to a narrow victory over Roy Moore, a former judge accused of sexually assaulting teenage girls, in a 2017 race for a Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions.

“This is an individual who is well thought of on both sides of the aisle,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon and the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said of Mr. Jones. “He is somebody who understands the moment.”

Asked why Mr. Jones would be a good fit for the job, Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, said, “Look at what he did with his life, look what he did on civil rights, look what he did as U.S. attorney, look what he did in the Senate. So those are all good reasons.”

Once Mr. Biden selects a nominee, Mr. Jones will introduce her to senators and prepare her for hearings. Senate Democrats have promised a quick confirmation process.

“The Constitution says ‘advise and consent, advice and consent,’ and I’m serious when I say I want the advice of the Senate as well as the consent,” Mr. Biden told reporters on Tuesday as he prepared to meet with Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the panel. Later in the day, Mr. Biden spoke with Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, who stressed the importance of the president choosing a nominee who believes in “judicial independence,” Mr. McConnell’s spokesman said.

Possible Supreme Court nominees include women who have already weathered the Senate confirmation process, including Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who successfully did so last year when Mr. Biden elevated her from the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia to the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.