“The Commission’s purpose is to provide an analysis of the principal arguments in the contemporary public debate for and against Supreme Court reform, including an appraisal of the merits and legality of particular reform proposals,” the White House said in a statement. The panel includes experts on constitutional law, history, and political science, the White House added.
The announcement partially addresses a presidential campaign promise from Biden as the left repeatedly pressured him to pack the court with additional justices to diminish its growing conservative majority, including three justices nominated by former President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate.
In October 2020, Biden said in an interview he would put together a “bipartisan commission” to address the Supreme Court “because it’s getting out of whack.”
Despite promising a bipartisan commission, Biden’s list prominently features leftist Democrats and legal scholars and only a few Republicans or conservatives, many of them critical of President Donald Trump and his Make America Great Again movement. The list ignores prominent conservative legal scholars.
Biden’s commission serves as a step to mollify leftist activists demanding he take steps to expand the Supreme Court. The number of justices on the court has remained at nine for more than 150 years.
When he was United States Senator, Biden famously described former President Franklin Roosevelt’s attempt to pack the court as a “bonehead idea” and a “terrible, terrible mistake” during a 1983 debate in the United States Senate.
Roosevelt’s attempt to pack the courts failed miserably, as even Democrats joined Republicans to defeat the proposal.
Only Congress has the power to add or subtract the number of justices who sit on the Supreme Court, which is determined through legislation. Most legal scholars agree that ending the lifetime tenure of a Supreme Court justice would require a Constitutional Amendment to change.
The commission will be co-chaired by Bob Bauer, a White House counsel for former President Obama and Cristina Rodriguez, a former Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel in the United States Department of Justice. Rodriguez served in the Justice Department during the Obama/Biden administration from 2011 until 2013.
The White House said the commission would address the Supreme Court’s role in the Constitutional system, the length of terms of Supreme Court justices, and the number of justices on the Supreme Court.
The president’s executive order will ask the commission to complete its report within 180 days of its first public meeting.