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Biden to form commission to study Supreme Court changes

The bipartisan commission will examine the length of service and turnover of justices on the court as well as its membership and size, the White House said.
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Members of the Supreme Court on their way to the funeral of former Chief Justice William Rehnquist on Sept. 7, 2005. From left, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Clarence Thomas, David Souter, William Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Sandra Day O'Connor and John Paul Stevens.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will sign an executive order Friday establishing a commission to study overhauling the Supreme Court, following through on a campaign promise, the White House announced.

The topics that the commission will examine include the length of service and turnover of justices on the court, its membership and size, and its case selection, rules and practices, the White House said in a statement.

"The commission’s purpose is to provide an analysis of the principal arguments in the contemporary public debate for and against Supreme Court reform," the White House said.

The commission will be made up of a bipartisan group of scholars with expertise in constitutional law, history and political science, as well as former federal judges and court reform advocates. The committee will hold public meetings to hear from outside voices and will be directed to complete a report within 180 days of its first public meeting.

While the executive order doesn't require the commission to provide Biden with specific recommendations, the panel's report would will affect Biden’s "thinking moving forward,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday.

White House aides told NBC News in January that they were working to set up the commission as part of their mission to shape the courts after Republicans overhauled them in the last four years.

Biden was reluctant during his campaign to embrace the idea of court expansion despite pressure from Democrats after then-President Donald Trump's decision to quickly fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just weeks before the election.

In an interview with "60 Minutes" in October, Biden committed to establishing a "bipartisan commission of scholars" but said that their purpose would not be focused on "court packing," or adding seats to the court.

"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," he said at the time.

The White House said Friday that Bob Bauer, a professor at New York University School of Law and a former White House counsel, and Cristina Rodriguez, a professor at Yale Law School and former deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel, will co-chair the commission.

Sahil Kapur contributed.