By Andrew Chung and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden on Friday formed a bipartisan committee to study potential US Supreme Court changes including expanding the number of judges beyond the current nine. a target by some Liberal Democrats hoping to end their conservative majority.
Under an executive order signed by the Democratic president, the 36-member commission will examine the “validity and legitimacy” of potential reforms to the nation’s top judiciary, including the Add judges or impose term limits on their duties instead of current lifetime appointments.
The number of Supreme Court justices has remained at nine since 1869, but Congress has the power to change the number and has done so several times before. The imposition of time limits will likely require constitutional amendments, although some scholars have suggested ways to implement it under the law.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the commission would represent the entire political spectrum. It will include liberal and conservative legal scholars, former federal judges and lawyers who have appeared before the courts. It holds public meetings and has 180 days to report its findings.
In October, Biden promised in October, at the end of the presidential election campaign, to form a commission – a step that would allow him to avoid taking a tough stance on some followers’ proposal to extend the court. liberalism, though he had previously opposed this idea.
Republicans are fiercely opposed to the idea sometimes referred to as “court packing”. Some Democrats and liberal activists said all options including expansion must be considered against an entrenched conservative majority that could threaten abortion rights, citizenship, Gun control and healthcare access in the coming years.
Former Republican President Donald Trump was able to appoint three justices in four years in office, giving the court a conservative 6-3 majority.
Democrats accused Republicans of “stealing” a Supreme Court seat in 2016 when the Senate, then controlled by Republicans, refused to consider the Democratic President’s nomination for Merrick Garland. Barack Obama to fill the void caused by the death of Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.
Senate Republicans at the time, led by then Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said it would not be suitable to endorse a justice in one year of presidential election. Their game paved the way for Trump in 2017 to replace Scalia with another conservative, Justice Neil Gorsuch.
Democrats accused Republicans of hypocrisy last year when the Senate was quick to confirm Trump’s appointment of conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett a week before the presidential election following the death of self-justice run by Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month.
Calling it a “fake academic study on a non-existent problem,” McConnell argued that Biden’s committee was a political attack on the court.
“It was just an attempt to conceal those ongoing attacks with fake legitimacy,” said McConnell.
McConnell has played a key role in helping Trump turn the Supreme Court and the broader federal judiciary into power by making Senate confirmation of judicial appointments a priority. head.
The oldest member of the court is Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, 82 years old. If Breyer retires this year, as liberal activists urged him to do, Biden will have his first appointment with the supreme court. Biden has promised to name a black woman, this will be the first in history. But replacing a liberal with a liberal would not change the imperial ideological balance.
Psaki said Biden “believes it was Justice Breyer’s decision when he decided not to have time to serve at the Supreme Court.”
In a speech at Harvard Law School on Tuesday, Breyer pointed out that changes to the court could undermine the court’s authority. The court, Breyer said, depends on “the belief that the court is guided by legal principles, not politics.”
Several freelance activists on Friday demanded immediate action to expand the court.
“Adding seats is the only way to restore balance to the court and Congress should start right away,” said Aaron Belkin, head of the freedom group Take Back the Court.
The final attempt to expand the court was a failed attempt in the 1930s by Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt after a series of rulings failed several of his policies.