Still, the responses have brought Biden ever closer to his party’s grassroots, even pleasing some of the progressive activists who pushed him to adopt hard-line court changes that will be a key part of any successful coalition for him in the 2024 presidential election. .
« The president’s most encouraging comment was the unwritten one, » said Brian Fallon, who as executive director of the progressive justice affairs group Demand Justice has consistently urged the White House to back a liberal plan to add seats to the Supreme Court. . “My advice would be to put it in the main message.”
Biden made it clear Thursday that he’s not willing to go where others in his party are, dismissing the idea of packing the courthouse in his interview with MSNBC. « If we go into the process to try and expand the court, we will politicize it maybe forever in a way that’s not healthy, » he said.
But the totality of his responses, which came at a time when the court is under intense and increasingly suspicious scrutiny, suggested a politician who was increasingly close in rhetoric to the activist camp, at least according to those to whom the same Biden has entrusted such an undertaking. Former US District Judge Nancy Gertner, who served on the presidential committee looking into potential changes to the Supreme Court, said Biden’s comments on Thursday were « certainly strong for him. » The fact that he refused to dismiss the court as wrongful, she added, was not surprising. He retained his central political identity.
“If the public doesn’t comply with the decisions the court is handing down, we’re all really in trouble,” said Gertner, who urged Biden to support adding more seats to the court. “He’s walking a line that’s an appropriate line to walk: ‘I don’t like these decisions. I disagree, but I’m not going to characterize the court.’”
« That’s consistent with who he is, » she added.
Biden’s cautious criticism comes at a unique moment of scrutiny for the high court. The overturning of Roe versus Wade last summer brought better-than-expected midterms for Democrats, and Biden’s own reelection campaign is planning to make a pledge to codify abortion protections nationwide central. And recent reports examining Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas’ ties to prominent conservative billionaires have amplified calls by Democratic lawmakers for sweeping court overhauls.
The structure and composition of the tribunal has remained one of several points of contention between Biden and his base, with the president often occupying the role of institutionalist unwilling to challenge the legitimacy of another branch of government within an ever-growing party. more determined to do SO.
Biden – who began his career as a lawyer before chairing the Senate Judiciary Committee in the late 1980s and early 1990s – has long sought to avoid the perception that he would challenge the independence of the Supreme Court . And during the 2020 election campaign, she dodged and dodged the issue of expanding the Supreme Court, even as her main competitors and fellow Democrats have expressed openness to it or even embraced it.
“Action and reaction, anger and more anger, pain and frustration with the way things are politically in this country,” Biden said during a September 2020 speech, in which he was trying to discourage Republicans from confirming a replacement for the late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the final weeks of the campaign. « We need to de-escalate, not escalate. »
Republicans have not listened to that request. And as they approached the definitive confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, Biden chose another middle option: instead of promising punishment, he pledged to launch the commission of scholars to study changes in the judicial system.
The commission was viewed in Democratic circles as a classic Washington game. When his report was drafted in December 2021, it stopped well short of any sweeping recommendations like adding more justices or calling for term limits. Instead, he approved a code of conduct for judges and asked the court to continue live streaming audio for his oral arguments. The report’s relatively modest scope was quickly sidelined in Washington, even frustrating some members.
When asked about the report Thursday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told traveling reporters on Air Force One that Biden « read » it. She disputed the notion that she « he’s sitting on the shelf and gathering dust ». But, she added, she didn’t have « a few additional steps to go forward » to announce.
The Biden campaign declined to comment on this story. The White House, meanwhile, has largely avoided speaking publicly about recent ProPublica reports detailing Thomas’s close relationship with a billionaire Republican donorand of Alito vacation with a different billionaire.
When Dobbs was first decided, some progressives criticized Biden’s response as insufficient. Biden has signed several executive orders related to abortion and reproductive health but has declined to act on others, such as a plan by Progressives to put abortion clinics on federal property, his team sees more liberal proposals as unfeasible and in some cases harmful.
Biden’s advisers believe he sounded the alarm effectively, chastising the decision but not calling the judges illegitimate and arguing that the remedy was through legislative action and elections. They think the correctness of their approach has been demonstrated in the political sphere and at the polls: Democrats vastly outperformed expectations in the midterms, largely due to voter anger at Dobbs.