After repeatedly dodging the question of whether he would try to pack the Supreme Court as president, Joe Biden has finally given his answer in a soon-to-be broadcast 60 Minutes interview. It was this:
If elected, what I will do is I’ll put together a national commission of — bipartisan commission of scholars, constitutional scholars, Democrats, Republicans, liberal, conservative. And I will ask them to over 180 days come back to me with recommendations as to how to reform the court system because it’s getting out of whack.
Some conservatives are hyping this as a promise for a full frontal assault on the judiciary because at one point he says he wants to “go well beyond packing.” I think this has to be seen as a “no.” At least for now. He later referred to packing the Court as a “live ball.” This should be considered a promise to put his finger in the air again after any other controversial rulings. But for now, the polls tell us Court-packing is an extremely unpopular idea, and confirming Amy Coney Barrett to the Court before the election is a moderately popular idea. So Biden is offloading the idea to a future commission.
A bipartisan commission is unlikely to produce a recommendation for Court-packing. But Biden is not wrong to refer to other ideas beyond Court-packing. For instance, some have been circulating the idea of term limits on Supreme Court justices that make vacancies regular, and prevent the sudden deaths of justices from upending our politics.
Conservatives should take heart that public opinion is pushing Democrats away from something dangerous.