Biden: ‘I Would Not Get into Court Packing’

Melanie Arter | October 16, 2019 | 8:48pm EDT
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(Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images)

( - Former Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday that he’s against packing the U.S. Supreme Court to preserve abortion rights.

During the CNN/New York Times Democratic presidential debate, Biden was asked, “The Supreme Court is currently made up of five Republican appointed justices and four appointed by Democrats. The court just announced it will hear arguments in a case challenging some abortion rights. Vice President Biden, the Constitution does not specify the number of justices that serve on the Supreme Court. If Roe V. Wade is overturned on your watch and you can't pass legislation in Congress, would you seek to add justices to the Supreme Court to protect women's reproductive rights?”



“I would not get into court packing. We had three justices. Next time around we lose control, they add three justices. We begin to lose any credibility the court has at all. I want to point out that the justices I've supported, when I defeated Robert Bork -- and I say when I defeated Robert Bork, I made sure we guaranteed a woman's right to choose for the better part of a generation,” Biden said.

“I would make sure we move and insist that we pass, we codify Roe V. Wade. The public is already there. Things have changed, and I would go out, and I would campaign against those people in the state of Ohio, Alabama, et cetera, who in fact are throwing up this barrier. Reproductive rights are a constitutional right, and in fact, every woman should have that right,” he said.

“And so I would not pack the court. What I would do is make sure that the people that I recommended for the court from Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Elena Kagan who used to work for me, to others, that they in fact support the right of privacy on which the entire notion of a woman's right to choose is based, and that's what I would do,” Biden said.

“No one would get on the court. And by the way, if, in fact, at the end of this -- beginning next year, if, in fact, one of the justices steps down, God forbid, in fact I would make sure that we would do exactly what McConnell did last time out. We would not allow any hearing to be held for a new justice,” he said.

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg confirmed that he proposed expanding the court from nine justices to 15.

“That's right. When I proposed reforming the Supreme Court, some folks said that was too bold to even contemplate. I'm not talking about packing the court just with people who agree with me, although I certainly will appoint people who share my values, for example, the idea that women's reproductive freedom is an American right,” Buttigieg said.

“What I'm talking about is reforms that will depoliticize the court. We cannot go on like this where every single time there is a vacancy, we have this apocalyptic firefight over what to do next. One way to fix this would be to have a 15-member court where five of the members can only be appointed by unanimous agreement of the other 10,” he said.

“Smarter legal minds than mine are discussing this in the Yale Law Journal and how this could be done without a constitutional amendment, but the point is that not everybody arrives on a partisan basis. There are other reforms we could consider from term limits -- don't forget, justices used to just retire like everybody else -- to a rotation off the appellate bench,” Buttigieg said.

“I'm not wedded to a particular solution, but I am committed to establishing a commission on day one that will propose reforms to depoliticize the Supreme Court because we can't go on like this,” he said.



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