Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden refused again Thursday to disclose his position on adding seats to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying voters won’t know where he stands until after the election.
Several Democrats have suggested the party should add seats to the court if it wins the White House and the Senate as a way to counter the impact of President Trump’s nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, who is expected to join the court’s conservative bloc.
Her confirmation would mean six of the nine justices were appointed by Republican presidents, including three by President Trump – the most by a single president since Richard Nixon. The five current members who comprise the conservative bloc have sided with the conservative position on a host of issues, including abortion, religious liberty and LGBT rights, even if the bloc has had a few defections in recent months.
The Supreme Court has had nine justices since 1869.
“You'll know my opinion on court-packing when the election is over,” Biden told reporters Thursday. “.... I don't blame you for asking, but you know the moment I answer that question, the headline in every one of your papers, will be about that – other than focusing on what's happening now.”
Biden says the vacancy left by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death should be filled by the winner of the November election. Republicans, he said, are “denying the American people the one shot they have under constitutional law to be able to have their input.”
Biden added he will “lay out in detail what I'm going to do after” the election.
Vice President Pence, during Wednesday’s debate with Kamala Harris, said the Trump administration has a constitutional duty to name a replacement for Ginsburg.
“This is a classic case of if you can’t win by the rules, you’re going to change the rules,” Pence said of the proposal by some Democrats.
President Trump said during the first presidential debate that he is filling the Supreme Court seat because “elections have consequences.”
“We have the Senate, we have the White House,” he said.
U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA.) said he supports packing the court. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) previously said “everything is on the table” if Trump fills the seat.
New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie this week urged Democrats to add seats to the high court if Barrett is confirmed.
“To allow the American people to govern themselves, to rein in the judiciary and break a would-be reactionary super-legislature – to show Republicans that they cannot keep the ill-gotten gains of the Trump years – Democrats will need to expand the courts,” Bouie wrote.
But Reps. Collin Peterson (MN.), a Democrat, and Denver Riggleman (VA.), a Republican, co-wrote a column for The Hill this week encouraging Congress to keep the number of Supreme Court justices at nine. The two back a constitutional amendment limiting the number of seats to nine.
“Any attempt to pack the U.S. Supreme Court would set off a judicial arms race which will further divide our country,” they wrote. “If one party succeeds in packing the court, the next party to win a majority may move to do the same in retaliation, further eroding respect for the court and the rule of law.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Win McNamee/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.