PHOENIX (Reuters) – Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said on Thursday Americans will learn his position on increasing the number of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court if he defeats President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 election.
Following Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg’s death on Sept. 18, some Democrats have pressed Biden to consider “packing the court” with liberal justices if Trump’s Republican party fills Ginsburg’s seat ahead of the election and creates a 6-3 conservative majority.
Trump has criticized Biden for repeatedly declining to provide his view on the matter.
On Thursday, Biden told reporters that revealing it now would distract voters from focusing on Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the top court.
“The moment I answer that question, the headline in every one of your papers will be about that other than – other than focusing on what’s happening now,” Biden said.
Biden has said that because the election is only weeks away, the winner of the contest should be the one who picks Ginsburg’s successor. Democrats say that because Supreme Court justices hold their seats for life, a 6-3 conservative majority could threaten access to healthcare, abortion, and civil rights.
White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said Biden’s comments were a sign he does plan to expand the court. “Voters deserve a clear answer, though we basically already have one,” she said on Twitter.
The U.S. Senate, which has the power to confirm presidential nominees to the high court, is currently under Republican control though that could change after November’s elections. The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to start hearings on Barrett on Monday.
The number of justices on the high court has remained at nine since 1869, but Congress has the power to change the size of the bench and did so several times before that.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Alistair Bell)