The White House said on Thursday that President Joe Biden’s position on expanding the Supreme Court to add liberal justices hasn’t changed after the court declined to weigh in on a new Texas law banning most abortions.
Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, kept his views on court-packing close to the vest during last year’s campaign but was viewed as reluctant to take this step. He appointed a commission to study court expansion and other related issues.
“The president's view on the expansion of courts has not changed," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at Thursday’s briefing. She noted the Biden-appointed commission was reviewing a “range of questions” beyond the number of justices on the nation’s highest court, including judicial term limits.
Court-packing has picked up steam on the Left since former President Barack Obama couldn't fill the vacancy created by Justice Antonin Scalia because of Senate Republican opposition. Former President Donald Trump appointed three justices.
The confirmation of Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett gave the Supreme Court a 6-3 conservative majority. Barrett’s nomination especially shifted the ideological balance of the court, as she succeeded Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Bill Clinton nominee and liberal icon.
Obama's nominee to succeed Scalia, Merrick Garland, is currently the attorney general under Biden.
Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the three liberal justices to put the Texas abortion law on hold pending judicial review. The court voted 5-4 not to block the law. A review of a restrictive Mississippi abortion law is already on the docket.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris denounced the ruling and the abortion law in statements on Thursday. The White House has said the president will use all levers of federal power to ensure women in Texas retain abortion access.
Psaki would make no commitments on where the president would come down once the judicial reform commission issues its recommendations.
"He takes the role of institutions in our nation's history, including the Supreme Court, quite seriously,” Psaki said. “That's one of the reasons why this commission was put together and constructed in the way it was." She said she did not know where he would “land” on the commission’s proposals.
Congressional Democrats have already vowed to advance legislation codifying abortion rights in preparation for a possible reversal of Roe v. Wade. But the party has narrow majorities, including a 50-50 Senate in which it relies on the vote of anti-abortion Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Increasing the number of justices on the Supreme Court would also require legislation that would be difficult to enact with the current majorities.
A Washington Examiner/YouGov poll last year found that only 34% of registered voters wanted to see the Supreme Court expanded while 47% were opposed. Respondents preferred a balanced court to additional liberal justices by 52% to 38%.
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Original Author: W. James Antle III