Politico

After dodging questions about court packing, Biden floats commission to study judicial reforms


Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said that if elected he will convene a bipartisan commission of constitutional scholars to examine judicial reforms, asserting that there are “a number of alternatives” that go “well beyond” expanding the Supreme Court.

“If elected, what I will do is I’ll put together a national commission of — bipartisan commission of scholars, constitutional scholars, Democrats, Republicans, liberal, conservative. And I will ask them to over 180 days come back to me with recommendations as to how to reform the court system because it’s getting out of whack,” Biden told CBS’ Norah O’Donnell in an interview set to air this weekend on “60 Minutes.”

The comments are one of the clearest answers yet the Democratic presidential nominee has given to repeated questions about whether he would “pack” the court by nominating additional justices in order to restore its ideological balance. Both Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris have sidestepped the subject or refused outright to lay out their positions on the issue.

Biden asserted in the interview, a clip of which was released Thursday morning ahead of his final debate with President Donald Trump, that his proposed commission is “not about court packing.” Pressed by O’Donnell whether the commission would study packing the court by adding more seats, Biden contended that it would not look solely at that issue.

“There’s a number of alternatives that are — go well beyond packing,” the former vice president said, though he conceded that liberals’ demands to pack the court are a “live ball.”

Despite emerging as an issue during the Democratic primary, the question of whether a Democratic president should add seats to the nation’s highest court took on new urgency in September following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Trump and Senate Republicans have pledged to fill her seat on the court despite the close proximity to the election and with polls showing the president’s reelection and Republicans’ Senate majority in peril. The Senate is set to vote on Trump’s nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, on Monday.

Since Ginsburg’s death, Biden’s response to queries about whether he supported packing the court has evolved from ignoring such questions to declaring he would explain his stance on the issue after the election and denying that voters have a right to know his thoughts before casting their ballots. He has since clarified that he is “not a fan” of court packing.

“The last thing we need to do is turn the Supreme Court into just a political football, whoever has the most votes gets whatever they want,” Biden told O’Donnell, adding: “Presidents come and go. Supreme Court justices stay for generations.”

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