- Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said on Monday that he is “not a fan” of court packing, his firmest response to a question that he has been asked about for weeks.
- “I want to keep focused,” he said. “The president would love nothing better than to fight about whether or not I would, in fact, pack the court or not pack the court.”
- With Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings currently underway, the issue has gained prominence among lawmakers and voters.
- Sen. Kamala Harris hasn’t stated a firm position on court packing since becoming his vice presidential running mate, only saying that the “American people deserve to make the decision” of “who will serve for a lifetime.”
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Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said on Monday that he is “not a fan” of court-packing, in response to weeks of questions about whether he would add seats to the Supreme Court if elected.
At a campaign appearance in Cincinnati, Ohio, about his position on expanding the Supreme Court, a topic that has gained prominence with the current confirmation hearings of Judge Amy Coney Barrett just weeks before the November election.
“I’ve already spoken: I’m not a fan of court packing, but I don’t want to get off on that whole issue,” he said. “I want to keep focused. The president would love nothing better than to fight about whether or not I would, in fact, pack the court or not pack the court. The focus is why is he doing what he’s doing now?”
With numerous Democratic politicians raising the prospect of adding seats to the current court makeup of nine justices in retaliation for Barrett’s nomination and the rejection of Judge Merrick Garland, who was denied a hearing by Senate Republicans after being nominated by then-President Barack Obama in 2016, Biden has faced pressure to state a firm position.
His statement on Monday went further than his most recent comments.
Biden demurred when asked about his opinion on the courts at an October 8 campaign event in Phoenix, Arizona, with his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California.
“They’ll know my opinion on court-packing when the election is over,” Biden said. “Now, look, I know it’s a great question, and y’all — and I don’t blame you for asking it. But you know the moment I answer that question, the headline in every one of your papers will be about that.”
During the vice presidential debate on October 7, Harris also didn’t state a firm position on the issue when asked by Vice President Mike Pence, only stating that the “American people deserve to make the decision” of “who will serve for a lifetime.”
Biden was again asked about the issue on October 9 in Las Vegas, Nevada, and told KTNV that he was “not going to play his game,” referring to Trump.
The former vice president then expressed a similar sentiment when approached by reporters in Wilmington, Delaware, on October 10.
“The only court packing that’s going on right now is going on with Republicans packing the courts now,” Biden said. “It’s not constitutional what they’re doing. We should be focused on what’s happening right now.”
That same day, Pence flagged the issue and said that Biden was not being transparent.
“The American people deserve a straight answer,” Pence said. “When you’re running for the highest office in the land, the American people deserve to know whether you’re going to respect the highest court in the land.”
Biden, who at one time served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, shepherded several justices through the nomination process and is widely seen as a committed institutionalist. However, Harris, who joined the Senate in 2017, has stated in the past that she was “absolutely open” to a discussion about packing the court.