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Biden calls for 'bipartisan commission' to propose ways to 'reform the court system'

Biden faces pressure to take a position on adding seats to the Supreme Court as Trump’s nominee advances toward a Senate vote.
Image: FILE PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden attends a Voter Mobilization Event in Cincinnati
Joe Biden delivers remarks at a voter mobilization event campaign stop in Cincinnati on Oct. 12, 2020.Tom Brenner / Reuters

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden told “60 Minutes” he would set up a "bipartisan commission of scholars" from across the ideological spectrum to explore ways to change the Supreme Court.

“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,” Biden said, according to excerpts released Thursday by CBS of an interview to air Sunday.

“And it’s not about court packing,” Biden said. “There’s a number of other things that our constitutional scholars have debated and I’ve looked to see what recommendations that commission might make.”

Biden's 180-day timeline for a commission indicates that restructuring the courts wouldn’t be a priority in the first six months of his presidency, should he win the election.

The answer comes as Biden faces pressure to take a position on the push to add seats to the Supreme Court in response to what Democrats describe as a theft by Republicans for enabling President Donald Trump to fill a vacancy in an election year after preventing President Barack Obama from doing so in 2016.

The clip was released on the same day that Biden faces Trump in their final debate before Election Day.

It also comes on the same day that a Republican-led committee voted to advance the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative and originalist, to the full Senate to replace the late liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Democrats vociferously objected, citing the election in less than two weeks.

Biden has been caught between a push by progressives to expand the court to rebalance it ideologically, and his pitch to work across the aisle, restore institutions and return to normalcy.

The Democrat has previously expressed skepticism for “court packing” and said he’s “not a fan” of that idea. He has also expressed openness to other ideas to restructure the court, such as altering lifetime tenure of justices.

“There’s a number of alternatives that are — go well beyond packing,” he told “60 Minutes.” “The last thing we need to do is turn the Supreme Court into just a political football, whoever has the most votes gets whatever they want. Presidents come and go. Supreme Court justices stay for generations.”

Asked Thursday by a reporter about Biden's idea for a commission on the courts, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said “My view: Everything is on the table when we get the majority. First job, get the majority.”