The Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States was established in April partly as a compromise with liberals, who called for the expansion of the number of justices on the conservative-dominated Supreme Court — dubbed “court packing” by critics.
Biden brought up the idea of creating the commission while campaigning for president, as he was being pressured by fellow Democrats to take a stand on court expansion to try to bring greater balance to a bench dominated 6-3 by conservatives. The court appears poised to continue its right turn on abortion rights, religious liberty and voting restrictions.
But according to the White House, the commission is examining far more than just expanding the bench.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced the upcoming release of the commission’s “draft preliminary discussion materials” during Wednesday’s press briefing, telling reporters the materials have not been submitted to the White House for edits or feedback. She added that the materials’ release will be followed by a public meeting of the commission on Friday.
“Our objective here is to allow this process, made up of a diverse range of experts and voices, to move forward and represent different viewpoints and we’re not going to comment on it — or the President wouldn’t comment on it — until a report is final and he has the chance to review it at that period of time,” Psaki said.
A final report will be submitted to Biden in mid-November.
The White House has previously said that “the commission’s purpose is to provide an analysis of the principal arguments in the contemporary public debate for and against Supreme Court reform, including an appraisal of the merits and legality of particular reform proposals,” adding that commissioners would examine such options as term limits for justices; changing the size of the court; and altering its case selection, rules and practices.
The commission is not expected to make final recommendations for reform.
Many Democrats also remain incensed that Senate Republicans blocked the 2016 Supreme Court nomination of then-US Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland for nearly a year, but then moved swiftly to confirm President Donald Trump’s appointees, including Amy Coney Barrett just days before the November 2020 presidential election.
Biden signaled on the campaign trail that he’s “not a fan” of court packing.
While discussing his idea to form a commission, Biden told CBS News last fall that he wanted “recommendations as to how to reform the court system because it’s getting out of whack.”
“It’s not about court-packing,” he said. “There’s a number of other things that our constitutional scholars have debated. … The last thing we need to do is turn the Supreme Court into just a political football, whoever has the most votes gets whatever they want. Presidents come and go. Supreme Court justices stay for generations.”