The Biden administration is assembling a bipartisan commission to consider expanding the US Supreme Court — an idea that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer this week called “the big one.”
Several leading lawyers and former Justice Department officials have been recruited for the panel, which is expected to have between nine and 15 members, Politico said Wednesday, citing sources familiar with the plan.
At least one prospective appointee — former American Constitution Society president Caroline Fredrickson — has voiced support for potentially 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.
On Monday night, Schumer (D-NY) told MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” that Democrats were planning to increase the number of federal lower-court judges to offset the 200-plus who were successfully nominated by former President Donald Trump.
Schumer also called the notion of expanding the nine-member Supreme Court “the big one,” but declined to say if he favored doing it.
Instead, Schumer said he would wait for a recommendation from the commission, which Biden last year pledged to create, with a mandate to issue a report within 180 days.
At the time, Biden said the Supreme Court was “getting out of whack” but also said he was “not a fan of court packing.”
“The last thing we need to do is turn the Supreme Court into just a political football, whoever has the most votes gets whatever they want,” Biden told CBS’ “60 Minutes” in October.
“Presidents come and go. Supreme Court justices stay for generations.”
The formation of Biden’s commission has progressive groups that favor expanding the court skeptical that they’ll get their wish, Politico said.
“Commissions are often places where ideas go to die and there is no time on the clock to reform the court,” Aaron Belkin of Take Back the Court told the website.
Another prospective appointee, Harvard Law School professor and former US assistant attorney general Jack Goldsmith, will also likely frustrate progressives due to his outspoken support for Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court, Politico said.
Kavanaugh is among three justices nominated by former President Donald Trump, whose picks increased the conservative majority on the high court to 6-3.
In addition to the Supreme Court, Biden’s commission will also consider reforms to lower-level federal courts, including the judiciary, an administration official told Politico.
Federal judges now receive lifetime appointments, but Biden campaign lawyer Bob Bauer — who’s slated to co-chair the commission and is helping select its members — is a proponent of limiting their terms, Politico said.
Bauer’s co-chair on the commission is reportedly expected to be Yale Law School professor Cristina Rodriguez, a former US deputy assistant attorney general.
The Biden administration neither confirmed nor denied Politico’s reporting.
“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 told the website.