Biden’s Bipartisan Supreme Court Commission Releases Report


Image Courtesy of NBC News

By Jeremy Perillo

A bipartisan White House commission, created to probe arguments for and against reforming the Supreme Court, released draft discussion materials earlier this month to a curious electorate. The commission comes as members of President Biden’s Democratic party are pushing to expand the Court after a handful of perceived slights by then-Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. The issue of court-packing has remained a divisive one between Republicans and Democrats, and even within the Democratic party.

According to the draft “discussion materials,” the commission agreed that Congress did have the legal power to expand the Supreme Court; however, the group remained divided on whether or not it should be done. 

“Commissioners are divided on whether court expansion would be wise,” the draft said. “The risks of court expansion are considerable, including that it could undermine the very goal of some of its proponents of restoring the court’s legitimacy.”

Despite the differing opinions on the expansion of the Court, the commission remained more unified in their relative openness to instituting term limits on Supreme Court justices. 

“Among the proposals for reforming the Supreme Court, term limits for Supreme Court justices appear to enjoy the most widespread and bipartisan support,” the paper said. “A bipartisan group of experienced Supreme Court practitioners who testified before the commission concluded that an 18-year term limit ‘warrants serious consideration.’” 

While the commission was not necessarily opposed to the idea of term limits, Biden made his position known when he responded with a terse “No,” after a reporter had asked him about the group’s findings. 

Given the recent rhetoric from progressive groups, particularly following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the response from the draft material was not positive from the leftward wing of American politics.

“This was not even close to being worth the wait,” said Brian Fallon, the executive director of Demand Justice. “The paralysis-by-analysis reflected here is exactly what you would expect from a commission made up mostly of academics, including several die-hard conservatives who are fully content with the status quo.”

While the commission’s final report is not due until November 14, one thing is clear: there still does not remain a clear path forward on the issue. This report was never going to resolve the conflict on the issue given the rhetoric on both the left and right; this commission seems to be confirming that.
What the Biden administration does with the completed report will be telling, given the conflict within the Democratic party and the Court’s all-time low approval ratings. Biden has been relatively tight-lipped about what he will do going forward, and his outright refusal to consider term limits is intriguing, given the other alternatives on the table, if he were to actually attempt to implement any of them. It’s likely that any attempts to alter/reform the Supreme Court in any way would result in a partisan free-for-all on Capitol Hill, adding more fuel to the political fire as the parties gear up for the anticipated 2022 midterm elections.

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