World Biden’s Supreme Court reform commission won’t fix anything
Progressives say Biden’s foreign policy is the same as Trump’s. They’re wrong.
Sure, there are some similarities. But Biden’s foreign policy is very, very different from Trump’s.It goes something like this: Two months into his administration, Biden is pursuing many of the same objectives as his predecessor. Sure, the tone has changed — namely, talk of rebuilding alliances and defending democracy and human rights — but much of the substance remains the same.
In 2014, Judge Thomas Griffith authored an opinion inthat could have and potentially stripped health coverage from millions of Americans. Griffith’s court eventually , and the Supreme Court rejected Griffith’s reasoning in (2015) — but not before the Halbig decision plunged the Obama administration, health care advocates, and patients into a year of terror that Obamacare would be gutted.
On Friday, President Joe Biden announced that he would sign an executive order creating a “.” Griffith — who retired from the federal bench in 2020, allowing former President Trump to choose his successor — is , which the White House says Biden appointed to “provide an analysis of the principal arguments in the contemporary public debate for and against Supreme Court reform.”
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Yet, while the author of one of the most significant attacks on Obamacare in the last decade is on Biden’s commission, none of the leading academic proponents of Supreme Court reform were appointed (the overwhelming majority of the commission’sare law professors or political scientists).
Biden initially said in October he would convene a commission of leading academics to. At the time, Biden was torn between liberal activists who were enraged by Senate Republicans’ efforts to ensure that the GOP could control the Supreme Court, and Republican critics who accused Democrats of wanting to add seats to the Supreme Court in order to undo those efforts by the GOP.
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Rather than take a position on whether to add seats to the Supreme Court, Biden ultimately punted the question until after the election with his promise to appoint a commission.
Now he has appointed such a commission and, measured solely by its intellectual firepower, theon the commission are impressive. They include some of the nations’ most prominent legal academics, such as Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken and Harvard’s Laurence Tribe.
But the commission does not include law professors Daniel Epps and Ganesh Sitaraman, authors of ato expand the Supreme Court to 15 justices and have the key members of the Court be chosen in a bipartisan process that is intended to make the Court less ideological. And it does not include Aaron Belkin, a political science professor and , a pro-reform organization. In choosing the members of this commission, the White House appears to have prioritized bipartisanship and star power within the legal academy over choosing people who have actually spent a meaningful amount of time advocating for Supreme Court reforms.
Biden’s executive actions address a small part of America’s enormous gun problem
Biden announced six executive actions meant to curb gun violence in America.Biden’s actions are significant but address only a very small part of America’s enormous gun problem. Instead, they represent an effort by the White House to use the limited tools the president has, given the difficulties in passing new gun legislation through Congress, to make some progress toward reform.
(I reached out to the White House for comment about several of the concerns raised in this piece, but have not heard back from them as of this writing. We will update this piece to include the White House’s comment if they respond.)
When the White House released the list of commission members on Friday, it swiftly won praise — from members of the conservative Federalist Society. Evan Bernick, alaw professor at Georgetown, praised the commission as a “powerhouse lineup of scholars.” Stephen Sachs, a Duke Law professor who won the Federalist Society’s Joseph Story Award in 2020, called the commission “ .”
Ilya Somin, a libertarian law professor at George Mason University, wrote shortly after the commission’s membership was announced that “the composition of the Commission is also, who may have hoped that it will produce a report endorsing the idea.”
So, if the White House’s goal was to allay concerns among conservatives that President Biden might try to diminish the Republican Party’s influence over the judiciary, this commission appears to have accomplished that goal.
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How we got to this point
Not that long ago, the idea of adding additional seats to the Supreme Court in order to change its partisan makeup was. President Franklin Roosevelt proposed doing so in 1937 in order to neutralize a Court that frequently struck down New Deal programs on spurious legal grounds, but his proposal was unpopular and ultimately went nowhere.
Yet several crucial events happened in recent years that convinced many Democrats that the federal judiciary is unfairly stacked against them. In 2016, after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February of that year, Senate Republicansto President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, now-Attorney General Merrick Garland.
At the time, Republicans claimed that it was inappropriate to confirm a Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year.
But then Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Republicans immediately abandoned the position that they invented in order to justify scuttling Garland’s nomination. Trump’s nominee, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, was , which threw Trump out of office.
In the interim between Garland’s unsuccessful nomination and Barrett’s successful one, Democrats endured two other significant traumas. The first was that Trump became president, despitethan Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Republicans also controlled the Senate for the entirety of Trump’s presidency — but they only controlled the Senate thanks to malapportionment. The Democratic “minority” in the Senate than the Republican “majority” during Trump’s presidency.
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As another American city is gripped by protests following the shooting death of an unarmed Black person by a police officer, the Biden administration is renewing focus on one of the “four historic crises” he pledged to address in his first hundred days: a long-overdue reckoning over racial justice in policing. “With Daunte Wright in Minnesota, that god-awful shooting resulting in his death, and in the midst of an ongoing trial over the killing of George Floyd… we’re in the business, all of us meeting today, to deliver some real change,” President Joe Biden said on Tuesday before a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus.
Indeed, all three of Trump’s Supreme Court appointees were nominated by a president who lost the popular vote and confirmed by a bloc of senators who.
The second trauma was the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who waswhile Kavanaugh and Ford were both in high school. Kavanaugh responded to these allegations with an angry rant before the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which he for repeating the allegations against him — “what goes around comes around,” Kavanaugh told the committee.
All of this contributed to a sense among Democrats that the Court has become too partisan, and led many prominent Democrats to conclude that radical action was necessary to prevent a GOP-led Supreme Court fromand otherwise entrenching Republican power.
Yet, when candidate Biden was asked about whether he’d support radical reforms such as adding seats to the Supreme Court, he. After Ginsburg’s death, he took a more agnostic stance, saying that, while he’s “not been a fan of court-packing,” his approach to the issue would depend on how the Barrett confirmation fight played out.
Now that Barrett’s been confirmed, however, Biden appears to be signaling with his new commission that significant reforms to the Supreme Court will not be on the table.
Why a milquetoast Supreme Court commission matters
Court-packing is not something that anyone should do lightly. If Democrats did add seats to the Supreme Court in order to change its partisan balance, the result most likely would not be widespread acceptance of the newly liberal Court’s decisions. It would be.
As Justice Stephen Breyer recently, “structural alteration [of the Court] motivated by the perception of political influence” will erode trust in the Court’s decisions.
Yet, while Breyer is correct to warn that significant reforms to the Supreme Court are likely to undermine the Court’s legitimacy, the. If the justices believe that President Biden may send them six new colleagues if the Court dismantles what remains of the Voting Rights Act, then those justices may be less likely to dismantle the Voting Rights Act.
A healthy fear of a Democratic majority could lead the Supreme Court to become less partisan.
But Biden’s new commission sends the opposite message. With so many prominent members of the Federalist Society praising the commission right out the gate, it’s clear that conservatives do not feel threatened by this commission. And the justices themselves are just as capable of looking at the list of names that Biden picked and seeing that this commission is unlikely to support significant reforms.
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