Although President Joe Biden has hedged his bets in the ongoing debate over packing the U.S. Supreme Court, he did appoint a bipartisan commission to look at that and other court reform issues.
That panel issued a draft report this week in which members offered an equivocal view on the prospect of adding new seats to the nation’s highest court.
Committee members remain divided
So-called court-packing proposals were popular in certain progressive circles after former President Donald Trump successfully added three conservatives to the bench, thus cementing the Supreme Court’s conservative majority.
Although support has waned since then, some advocates keep the idea alive — particularly as justices consider a case that could result in prior abortion rights precedents being overturned.
For their part, the Biden commission’s 34 members explained in a roughly 300-page report that there remained “profound disagreement” regarding whether court-packing is a viable or valuable proposition.
The document provided an overview of the arguments for and against such a plan as well as other court reform proposals, including term limits for Supreme Court justices.
In a vote on Tuesday, the commission decided to send the report on to the White House for Biden’s review.
“I no longer have that confidence”
Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe, one of the panel’s more progressive members, expressed his continued misgivings about the underlying issues he believes plague the Supreme Court.
“In voting to submit this report to the president, I am not casting a vote of confidence in the court’s basic legitimacy,” he wrote. “I no longer have that confidence.”
As for the noncommittal tone of the report, progressive groups like the Project On Government Oversight have expressed their disapproval.
“It was clear from the moment President Joe Biden failed to ask the commission for recommendations that the group was not intended to meaningfully confront the Supreme Court legitimacy crisis,” the group asserted. “The commission worked diligently and thoughtfully, but its deliberations made painfully apparent that it would only give Biden what he asked for: a book report.”
Now that the document is heading to his desk, the ball is in Biden’s court regarding whether he will take any action related to reforming the Supreme Court.