President Joe Biden will order a 180-day commission that will explore the mechanics behind expanding the Supreme Court. The commission will provide a forum to debate the matter outside of Congress, whose own proceedings are likely to be significantly polarized.
Although Biden has not clarified his own views on expanding the court, the decision to engage the commission via executive order fulfills a campaign promise he made amid growing concerns from activists that the court is imbalanced.
“There’s growing recognition that the Supreme Court poses a danger to the health and well-being of the nation and even to democracy itself,” Aaron Belkin, director of the group Take Back the Court, told The New York Times. “A White House judicial reform commission has a historic opportunity to explain the gravity of the threat and to help contain it by urging Congress to add seats, which is the only way to restore balance to the court.”
The Supreme Court has been a political flashpoint for both parties in the last few years particularly after Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), then the majority leader, refused to consider then-President Barack Obama‘s nomination of Merrick Garland to the court. McConnell argued that Supreme Court justices should not be appointed during an election year, but this logic was ultimately thrown out after Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just weeks before the election.
Biden will likely get an opportunity to appoint a new justice if Justice Stephen Breyer, the oldest member of the court and a member of the liberal wing, retires at the end of the current term.