The Biden administration has begun setting up a commission aimed at Supreme Court reform and the federal judiciary, according to a Politico report.
The commission will be housed under the purview of the White House Counsel’s office and filled out with the behind-the-scenes help of the Biden campaign’s lawyer Bob Bauer, who will co-chair the commission.
Sources close to the matter told Politico that nine to 15 people are expected to be appointed and the recruitment of members to the panel is still ongoing.
Those who are expected to be on the commission include Yale Law professor and Obama-era Deputy Assistant Attorney General Cristina Rodríguez who also will co-chair along Bauer. Former American Constitution Society President Caroline Fredrickson and Harvard Law professor and former Bush-era Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith has also reportedly been tapped to serve on the commission.
At least one prospective appointee — Fredrickson has voiced support for expanding the Supreme Court, Politico said.
“I often point out to people who aren’t lawyers that the Supreme Court is not defined as a ‘nine-person body’ in the Constitution, and it has changed size many times,” Fredrickson reportedly said in 2019.
Progressive groups are looking to seize Democrats winning both chambers of Congress to push President Biden to pack the courts. Eight progressive organizations have banded together to form “Unrig the Courts” coalition in order to pressure Democrats and Biden to act. The coalition has four demands including, expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court, expanding lower federal courts, enacting term limits for Supreme Court justices, and improving ethics and transparency requirements for justices.
“The Supreme Court has become too partisan and too political, and with a united Democratic government, the time to act is now,” Demand Justice Executive Director Brian Fallon said in a statement. “The 6-3 Republican-appointed majority consistently sides with Republican politicians and corporate interests over the American people, and we must act before they rig the rules of our democracy even further.”
Biden is “committed” to following through on his campaign pledge of forming the bipartisan commission, the White House said, but declined to confirm or deny the Politico report.
“The President remains committed to an expert study of the role and debate over reform of the court and will have more to say in the coming weeks,” a White House official said in a statement
During the final weeks of the 2020 campaign, Biden declined to answer multiple questions as to whether he would pack the Supreme Court if elected president as retribution for Republicans confirming President Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Prior to winning the nomination, Biden has expressed opposition to adding more than 9 justices on the high court, calling the issue a “political football.”
However, after Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed, Biden in an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes” punted on committing before the election to the idea of packing of the court and announcing a pledge to form such a commission to study structural changes, with a mandate to issue a report within 180 days.
“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,” Biden said on October 22. “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 — the way in which it’s being handled and it’s not about court-packing.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” that he was waiting for Biden’s commission to bring its recommendation to “go from there” with a path forward, calling the notion of expanding the nine-member Supreme Court “the big one.”
“President Biden has put together this commission to come up with a report in 180 days,” Schumer said in an MSNBC interview on Monday. “We’re going to see what the commission says and go from there.”
Senate Republicans meanwhile are seeking to block any future attempts by Biden or Senate Democrats to expand the court. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) last week reintroduced a constitutional amendment to “protect the Supreme Court” by mandating it only have nine justices
“Packing the Supreme Court is a radical, left-wing idea that would further undermine America’s confidence in our institutions and our democracy,” Rubio said in the statement. “As a candidate, President Joe Biden promised to unify America, and even said he was ‘not a fan’ of packing the Supreme Court, a radical proposal he once referred to as a ‘bonehead idea’ when he served in the Senate.”
In addition to the Supreme Court, Biden’s commission will also consider reforms to lower-level federal courts, including the judiciary