Members of the media set up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington.
Al Drago | Reuters
President Joe Biden on Friday will order a bipartisan commission to study a slew of potential reforms to the U.S. Supreme Court, including the politically volatile question of whether the high court should be expanded.
The new commission, which comprises dozens of legal scholars, will hold public meetings to hear “varied perspectives on the issues it will be examining,” the White House said in a press release announcing the executive order.
The group will issue a report within 180 days of its first meeting, the White House said.
The order marks the fulfillment of Biden’s campaign promise to convene a group of experts to look into the myriad debates about the Supreme Court’s structure.
Then-candidate Biden had refused to explicitly rule out the idea of adding members to the nine-seat bench, raising the hackles of Republicans who staunchly oppose the prospect of “court packing” by the president.
Beyond the size of the Supreme Court, the commission will delve into “the length of service and turnover” of justices, as well as topics as broad as the court’s role in the U.S. constitutional system itself, according to the press release.
Justices confirmed to the high court serve lifetime appointments, and the court’s opinions are decided by majority.
Former President Donald Trump selected three associate justices in a single term in office, swinging the ideological makeup of the court sharply to the right. Trump’s final nominee, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, was sworn in just eight days before the election Trump lost to Biden.
The court’s solidly conservative 6-3 majority could hold for years to come.
Biden as a presidential candidate had been circumspect about whether he’d even entertain a debate on expanding the court.
The death of liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg last September set off a political firestorm, with Trump and Republicans scrambling to fill her seat before Election Day and Democrats demanding the selection process be delayed.
The GOP warned before polls closed that Biden if elected would seek to pack the courts, while progressives heaped pressure on Biden to commit to doing just that.
In October, Biden said he was “not a fan of court packing,” adding, “I don’t want to get off on that whole issue.”
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