Biden Refuses to Expand Supreme Court

© AFP 2023 / ALEX WONGWASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 24: President Biden addresses the Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization to overturn Roe v. Wade June 24, 2022 in Cross Hall at the White House in Washington, DC.
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 24: President Biden addresses the Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization to overturn Roe v. Wade June 24, 2022 in Cross Hall at the White House in Washington, DC. - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.06.2022
The landmark ruling, Roe v. Wade, which protected a woman’s right to an abortion at the federal level was overturned by the Supreme Court on Friday. Democratic lawmakers are now calling for the expansion of the Supreme Court which is currently a conservative majority, but President Joe Biden said does not agree with such a reform.
Democrats across the nation are urging for additional justices to be appointed to the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) in order to balance what has become a heavily conservative court.
Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren has suggested this week that the matter of expanding SCOTUS is urgent after justice Clarence Thomas indicated that he is also considering overturning other precedents which protect the use of contraception, same-sex marriage, and consensual gay sex. Earlier, SCOTUS overturned New York’s concealed carry law, despite a mass shooting in Buffalo as well as an overall increase in shootings in New York City.
"We need to balance out this court before they do more harm than what they've done thus far," said New York City Mayor Eric Adams at a press conference on Friday, where he said he would not be mayor today if his previous partner had not gotten an abortion when he was 15. Adams called court expansion “critical”.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts also supported the move to expand the court.
But President Joe Biden is not interested in expanding SCOTUS. Despite many of his opponents during the 2020 Democratic primary supporting such a reform, Biden thinks “court packing”- as it’s sometimes called- poses a danger to the legitimacy of the court, despite criticizing SCOTUS for overturning a century-old gun law in New York and the 50-year precedent of Roe.
"That is something that the president does not agree with," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One on Saturday. "That is not something that he wants to do."
When he was elected, Biden commissioned a 36-member bipartisan group to study possible changes to SCOTUS, including adding more seats, term limits (favoring 18-year terms) and a code of ethics for justices. The commission supported the idea of term limits, however, they found that court-packing would not serve the power of democratic interests, as polls show that a majority of the public opposes expanding the Supreme Court. However, that study was conducted before the overturning of Roe.
“But each expansion also served the interests of a political party,” wrote the commission in their report to the president, which in part explains the history of court expansion. “In 1837, the Democrats who controlled Congress had similar confidence in their party leader President Andrew Jackson. The new courts created also ensured that a majority of circuits would cover slaveholding territory and therefore that a majority of Justices would be friendly to slavery.”
But the legitimacy of the supreme court, as the report also predicted, is already being questioned by Democratic leaders, who see the conservative majority court as fulfilling biased needs as opposed to the needs of a democracy.
“They have burned whatever legitimacy they may still have had,” said Warren of the supreme court. “They just took the last of it and set a torch to it.”
“I believe that the president and the Democratic party needs to come to terms with the fact that this is not just a crisis of Roe – this is a crisis of our democracy,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “The supreme court has dramatically overreached its authority. This is a crisis of legitimacy.”
“There’s nothing sacrosanct about nine members of the United States supreme court,” said Stacey Abrams, Georgia gubernatorial candidate on CNN’s State of the Union. She pointed out that the president doesn’t get the final say on reform, legislators will also play a major role in whether or not the court is expanded. “What we have to focus on right now is the danger that this Dobbs decision presents to women in the state of Georgia and across the country,” Abrams added.
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