The 36-member commission will consist heavily of academics, along with a handful of former judges and courtroom advocates. The co-chairs, former
Liberal activists have been urging Supreme Court expansion to offset the 6-3 conservative majority created by three appointments by former President
Biden said during the campaign he is “not a fan” of adding seats to the court, something critics deride as “court packing.” But Biden also
The commission includes some high-profile liberal figures, among them former acting Solicitor General
The White House said in its announcement the commission will examine “the genesis of the reform debate; the court’s role in the constitutional system; the length of service and turnover of justices on the court; the membership and size of the court; and the court’s case selection, rules, and practices.” Biden directed the commission to complete its report within 180 days of its first meeting.
The announcement drew fire from Senate Minority Leader
The Constitution doesn’t say how many justices the court must have, but Congress has left the number at nine since 1869. The idea of adding justices hasn’t been seriously discussed since President
“We hope this commission is simply an empty gesture to the radical left,” said Mike Davis, president of the Article III project, which pushes for conservative judicial nominees. “But there is real danger in President Biden giving credibility to the idea of court packing; he is playing with fire and threatening the constitutional foundation of this country.”
Some liberals said Biden isn’t going far enough.
The announcement is “a major nod to the momentum for court reform,” Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice, which pushes for a more liberal judiciary, said in a tweet. “But this panel of mostly academics is not going to be a vehicle for the change needed.”
As a practical matter, major changes to the court are unlikely anytime soon. Adding seats would require an act of Congress -- something Republicans could easily block unless the
On Tuesday, Justice
“Structural alteration motivated by the perception of political influence can only feed that latter perception, further eroding that trust,” he said in a Harvard Law School speech. Another Supreme Court liberal, Justice
Breyer, a Democratic appointee and the oldest justice, has become the center of speculation that he might retire in the coming months and give Biden his first Supreme Court vacancy to fill.
(Updates with McConnell reaction in seventh paragraph.)
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