As a candidate, President Joe Biden remained coy regarding whether he would support a progressive plan to add new seats to the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to dilute its conservative majority.
Since entering office, he made headlines by establishing a bipartisan commission to study that and other court-related issues — and its members have thus far reached only an inconclusive finding in its court-packing debate.
“No position on the wisdom of expansion”
A nearly 300-page draft report includes an overview of the arguments for and against packing the nation’s highest court. Other issues discussed by the panel include setting term limits for justices as well as limiting the court’s power and jurisdiction.
The 34 commissioners appointed by the Biden administration determined that Congress has the authority to change the court’s size but declined to offer a formal recommendation regarding whether such a move would be advisable.
“We do not seek to evaluate or judge the weight of any of these arguments, and the Commission takes no position on the wisdom of expansion,” the commission declared.
As the report explains, “there has been a strong — and bipartisan — constitutional norm or convention treating Court packing as ‘something that just isn’t done.'”
In the past, efforts to alter the Supreme Court’s size “has tended, at least in part, to serve the interests of one political party.”
“Does not move the country closer”
One constitutional scholar cited in the report dismissed court-packing as a “wholly illegitimate means of seeking to alter existing Supreme Court doctrine.”
Although reports indicate public support for expanding the size of the court has decreased in recent months, the idea continues to attract attention — particularly within the scope of abortion-rights debates.
Justices heard oral arguments last week in a landmark case that could result in prior abortion-related precedents being overturned.
Progressives have spoken out against early indicators that conservative justices might be willing to roll back the decisions of 1973’s Roe v. Wade and 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
The commission’s indecisive report drew some backlash from both sides of the debate, including the Project On Government Oversight’s Constitution Project. Its director, Sarah Tuberville, declared the document a “milquetoast report by a group that did not agree on the problem, let alone recommend solutions,” and “does not move the country closer to solving the Supreme Court’s legitimacy crisis.”