Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said he would form a commission to evaluate the Supreme Court, when he was asked about expanding the court past the current threshold of nine justices.
The move, or "packing the court," has been floated by a number of Democratic lawmakers after Republicans moved to nominate and have all but confirmed Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court following Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death in September.
"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," the former vice president said. He added that they'll have 180 days to come up with recommendations on "how to reform the court system, because it's getting out of whack, the way in which it’s being handled."
"And it's not about court-packing. There's a number of other things that our constitutional scholars have debated, and I've looked to see what recommendations that commission might make," he said. In the interview, Biden didn't say whether he was against or in favor of packing the court.
Republicans say that with his latest comments on the Supreme Court, Biden is being pushed further to the left by members of his own party.
"Voters should be incredibly concerned Democrats are considering any reforms to the Supreme Court, much less reforms that go further than court packing," said Jesse Hunt, a spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, in a statement after Biden's latest comments.
"Biden's answer on this issue shows just how far to the left he's being pushed by the most liberal members of his party, and Senate Democrats are riding shotgun on this radical takeover attempt."
Both Biden and vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris have faced criticism from Republicans and President Donald Trump's campaign after they repeatedly refused to say whether they would pack the court. During the first presidential debate, Biden refused to answer the question, later telling a reporter who asked if voters deserve to know his position on the controversial move, "No, they don't." He later apologized.
Biden later said the court-packing claims are a distraction.
“I’m not a fan of court-packing, but I don’t want to get off on that whole issue. I want to keep focused,” Biden told CBS affiliate WKRC on Oct. 12. “The president [Trump] would like nothing better than to fight about whether or not I would in fact pack the court or not pack the court, et cetera. The focus is, why is he doing what he’s doing now?”
Court-packing is a term used to describe legislation that changes the number of seats on the Supreme Court, presumably to change its ideological makeup.
Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to expand the court from nine justices to 15 by adding a new justice for every sitting one who wouldn't retire after their 70th birthday.
He came up with the plan in 1937 after he won his second term in office, saying that the Supreme Court was taking too long to render decisions on important cases. Critics said Roosevelt was intent on changing the ideological makeup of the court to push through New Deal programs.
Meanwhile, on Oct. 22, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett despite a Democratic boycott. Democrats filled their seats with photos of people who rely on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
"This has been a sham process from the beginning," wrote Senate Democrats in a statement. "Amidst a global pandemic and ongoing election, Republicans are rushing to confirm a Supreme Court Justice to take away health care from millions and execute the extreme and deeply unpopular agenda that they've been unable to get through Congress."
Democrats have alleged that Barrett, if confirmed, would strike down key provisions of Obamacare when the issue comes to the Supreme Court in mid-November. Barrett would give conservatives a 6–3 majority on the court.