Biden Campaign Brushes Off Idea of Reforming the Supreme Court

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that American presidents have “absolute immunity” from prosecution for any “official acts” they take while in office. For President Joe Biden, this should be great news. Suddenly a host of previously unthinkable options have opened up to him: He could dispatch Seal Team 6 to Mar-A-Lago with orders to neutralize the “primary threat to freedom and democracy” in the United States. He could issue an edict that all digital or physical evidence of his debate performance last week be destroyed. Or he could just use this chilling partisan decision, the latest 6-3 ruling in a term that was characterized by a staggering number of them, as an opportunity to finally embrace the movement to reform the Supreme Court.

But Biden is not planning to do any of that. Shortly after the Supreme Court delivered its decision in Trump v. The United States, the Biden campaign held a press call with surrogates, including Harry Dunn, a Capitol police officer who was on duty the day Trump supporters stormed the building on Jan. 6; Reps. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) and Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas); and deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks.

Their message was simple: It’s terrifying to contemplate what Donald Trump might do with these powers if he’s reelected.

“We have to do everything in our power to stop him,” Fulks said.

Everything, that is, except take material action to rein in the increasingly lawless and openly right-wing Supreme Court.

Four years ago, Biden was at least willing to pay lip service to the idea that something needed to be done. Under pressure in 2020, then-candidate Biden promised that, if elected, he would appoint a bipartisan commission to consider reforms to the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary. It’s worth noting, he offered that pledge before the court overturned Roe v. Wade, before it struck down a Trump-era ban on the device that facilitated the deadliest mass shooting in American history, and before it ended affirmative action in college admissions. Biden made good on his promise to assemble that commission — 34 experts who held six public meetings, interviewed 44 witnesses, combed through 7,000 public comments, and ultimately delivered 294-page report — but he’s done nothing at all with its findings.

The commission wrote at length about proposals like adding more seats to the Supreme Court or imposing term limits — the latter of which is an idea the commission’s experts said warranted “serious consideration.” Biden, though, did nothing with the report. A year ago — after a string of calamitous decisions and devastating reporting exposing ethics scandals — Biden “upped his criticism” of the court, calling it not “normal” in one interview and saying the court’s ​​“value system is different” in another.

Asked directly on Monday whether Biden was recalibrating his position on reform after the Supreme Court’s immunity ruling, his deputy campaign manager Fulks said, “I don’t have any news to share on that this morning,” adding that Biden “deeply respects our institutions of government.”

Asked what the campaign’s message to voters who have watched as the court has delivered a stream of deeply partisan decisions and who believe the system is broken, and who want to know what Biden would do to fix it in a second term, Fulks offered: “We’re going to continue to make the case and talk to voters about the fact that the judges that Donald Trump put on the court have, honestly, taken away rights from Americans and given more freedom to Donald Trump as president United States to do whatever he wants … This campaign is gonna spend every day from now until November continuing to make that case that if Donald Trump gets anywhere near the White House again, he will do exactly what he has been telling us for months. He will continue to rip away fundamental freedoms from Americans, and he will continue to pursue political violence while attempting to rule as a dictator.”

Even more dispiriting for Americans who want to see real reform? The most optimistic view any of the campaign surrogates could offer Monday was a promise that Biden would at least “have conversations” about court reform that would be non-starters under Trump.

Crockett is part of a group of Democratic lawmakers advancing three separate pieces of court reform legislation — bills that would expand the court, implement term limits, and impose a binding ethics code on justices, respectively. “If we get the House, these are bills that we are going to try to push forward with,” Crockett said Monday. “I can guarantee you that if Trump is elected, he will never sign these into law.”

She added: “If Joe Biden is elected, we can at least sit down, have conversations and talk about why it’s important to institute these court reforms.”

For now, the prospect of future conversations is the most that Biden campaign surrogates can offer American voters — which is more than than the campaign itself was offering.

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