President Joe Biden signed an executive order last week establishing a commission to study potential reforms to the U.S. Supreme Court. The move left many wondering if Biden may be opening up to the idea of court-packing, a notion the president has decried in the past.
Now, Fox News reporter Peter Doocy wants answers. In a stunning moment during Friday’s White House press conference, Doocy pushed Biden’s top spokesperson, Jen Psaki, to clarify the president’s stance — and as could have been expected, she did her best to avoid giving a straight answer.
A “bonehead idea?”
It was first reported by the Media Research Center’s NewsBusters that Doocy had sparred with Psaki during Friday’s presser. There, according to a White House transcript, the Fox journalist reminded Psaki about remarks Biden made in 1983 expressing opposition to adding justices to the nation’s highest court in an effort to swing its ideological tilt.
“Whoa. A time-back machine,” the press secretary joked about the comments being nearly 40 years old.
“Oh, yeah,” Doocy said before returning to his question. “[Biden] said he thought that court-packing was a ‘bonehead idea’ when FDR tried it. So why ask a panel now to go and see if it is a good idea?”
“The pros and cons”
In response, Psaki said the newly established commission “is being asked to…take a number of steps,” including weighing “the pros and cons on exactly that issue.”
“But they will also be looking at the court’s role in the constitutional system; the length of service and turnover of justice on the court — justices on the court; the membership and size of the court; and the court’s case selection rules and practices,” the press secretary added, according to the transcript. Psaki went on:
And the make-up of this commission, which was vital for the president, was — is there are progressives on the court, there are conservatives on the court. People will present different opinions and different points of view, and then they’ll have a report at the end of 180 days.
Pres. Biden is appointing a panel to study expanding the Supreme Court — in response, Fox News’ Peter Doocy asked Jen Psaki about Biden’s quotes on court-packing from 1983 pic.twitter.com/hczIkgT4qm
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) April 9, 2021
A “faux-academic study”
In a follow-up question, CNN chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins asked if the new commission would be making explicit recommendations to Biden on reforms to the high court, an inquiry that NewsBusters said “got Psaki to flail.”
“It’s meant to be a report and a summary of their discussions and their findings,” the White House press secretary tried to explain. “I don’t know what it will look like, and I’m not going to get ahead of what their process will be.”
Those words are unlikely to impress Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who attacked Biden’s move to create the panel in a statement Friday.
“Rational observers know well there is nothing about the structure or operation of the judicial branch that requires ‘study,’” McConnell declared, according to The Hill. “This faux-academic study of a nonexistent problem fits squarely within liberals’ years-long campaign to politicize the court, intimidate its members, and subvert its independence.”