Biden says he'll reveal plan on court packing 'when elections are over', opposition slams him for 'wimping out'
Both the presidential candidate and his running mate Kamala Harris have stopped short of giving a clear view on packing the court in wake of Amy Coney Barrett's nomination
The Republican Party’s hurry in finding a replacement for late Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg has sparked a massive political controversy in the country. A week after the iconic justice breathed her last at 87, President Donald Trump nominated conservative Amy Coney Barrett to the apex court and it appears to be a matter of time before the GOP-controlled Senate would confirm her. Top Republican leaders in the Senate like Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham have backed the move to fill RBG’s vacant seat even if that meant betraying their own words uttered in the past that a Supreme Court judge should not be picked in an election year.
The Democrats have been fiercely critical of their opponents’ alleged double standards on the ‘Thurmond Rule’ which presents the idea that when an election is near, no judicial nominees should be confirmed. The informal rule originated in 1968 when the then-Republican senator from South Carolina, Strom Thurmond, blocked Justice Abe Fortas -- the nominee of Democratic president Lyndon B Johnson -- from getting an SC appointment. The Republicans repeated the same in 2016 when they refused to give a hearing to Merrick Garland, Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court as a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia following his death.
Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for this year’s election, has also been critical of the current administration’s move to what opponents have viewed as packing of the court with conservative judges to outnumber the liberals. If Barrett gets a confirmation, the conservatives will get a 6-3 lead over the liberals in the top court and it has made the liberal voices anxious. Speculation is rife that Barrett could make moves towards striking down the historic verdict given in Roe v Wade case of the 1970s that established women’s abortion rights and Biden recently said he would get the ruling codified if the conservative judge gets her confirmation.
Biden & Harris less forthcoming on SC 'packing'
Biden, however, has kept his stance on the issue of ‘court packing’ in suspense. On Thursday, October 8, as the former vice president visited Arizona for a campaign stop with vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris, he said: “They’ll know my opinion on court packing when the election is over.”
Joe Biden again declined to say today whether he would support expanding the Supreme Court if he wins the presidency and Democrats win the Senate, telling reporters that they'll find out when the election is over. https://t.co/BcXknIPbwF— Axios (@axios) October 8, 2020
Even Harris, who met Vice President Mike Pence for their only vice presidential debate in Utah in this election year, did not give a clear response to the issue. Pence himself asked the California senator and the state’s former attorney general: “'I think the American people would really like to know if Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States, are you and Joe Biden if somehow you win this election going to pack the Supreme Court to get your way?”
Harris replied by asking Pence to discuss the issue of packing the court. “Of the 50 people who president Trump appointed to the Court of Appeals, not one is Black. You want to talk about packing a court? Let’s have that discussion,” she said.
Biden was not different in his response on the topic on Thursday, October 8. When asked by the reporters, he said if he answered it, then the media headlines will be flooded by what he said and not other important things happening at the moment. “'I don't blame you for asking it, but you know the moment I answer that question, the headline in every one of your papers will be about that, other than - other than focusing on what's happening now. The election has begun. There's never been a court appointment once an election’s begun,” the 77-year-old said.
The conservative camp was not amused by Biden’s continued refusal to address this issue. 'Today Joe Biden insulted voters by wimping out on the court-packing question, all but admitting that he would radically change one of the three branches of government without having the guts to actually say so,” Carrie Severino, president of conservative political campaign organization Judicial Crisis Network President, tweeted.
Today @JoeBiden insulted voters by wimping out on the court-packing question, all but admitting that he would radically change one of the three branches of government without having the guts to actually say so. /1 https://t.co/cGAc8GAkac— Carrie Severino (@JCNSeverino) October 8, 2020
The matter is considered serious as some Democratic leaders in the Congress -- including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer -- have suggested expanding the Supreme Court if the Senate Republicans confirmed Barrett’s candidature. Pete Buttigieg, a former Democratic presidential candidate, spoke on overhauling the Supreme Court but while the issue did not attract a great deal of attention early on and Biden tried to take a more balanced position on the matter, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party has been more vocal against the Republicans and threatening retaliation.
In Arizona, Biden and Harris also joined Cindy McCain, the widow of the state’s late Republican senator John McCain -- a fierce Trump critic -- and they met with the Native American tribal leaders in Phoenix. McCain endorsed Biden for the president last month.
While Trump won Arizona, a Republican stronghold, by four points in 2016, Biden has been found to be leading the incumbent in the crucial state ahead of this year’s battle on November 3.