Joe Biden said he was “not a fan” of adding seats to the US Supreme Court in a new interview and insisted the “court-packing the public should be focused on” was Republican-led efforts to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just weeks before Election Day.
The former vice president and Democratic nominee made the comments in an interview on Monday with WKRC in Cincinnati, as senators on Capitol Hill were conducting confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative nominated to the nation’s top court by Donald Trump after justice Ginsburg’s passing.
“I’m not a fan of court packing, but I don’t want to get off on that whole issue,” the former vice president told the radio show, adding: “I want to keep focused.”
Mr Biden has faced renewed questions about whether he would add seats to the bench after Republicans went ahead with the confirmation process for Judge Barrett this week, despite refusing to do the same for Judge Merrick Garland, who was nominated by Barack Obama in 2016.
While Mr Biden has previously opposed so-called ”court-packing” efforts in public statements, he declined to directly address the issue on several occasions in recent weeks following the death of justice Ginsburg, a liberal stalwart who served on the Supreme Court since 1993.
As he spoke, Democrats on Capitol Hill were making the argument that Judge Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court could jeopardize the Affordable Care Act passed by Mr Obama, which has faced years of legal challenges from Mr Trump’s White House and top Republicans.
The Supreme Court was set to begin hearing oral arguments in a case surrounding the landmark health care initiative, which provides insurance coverage to an estimated 20 million Americans and protections for people with pre-existing conditions, a week after the November election.
Kamala Harris, a California senator on the Senate Judiciary Committee and Mr Biden’s vice presidential running mate, described the confirmation hearings as an “illegitmate” process on Monday.
“Senate Republicans have made it crystal clear that rushing a Supreme Court nomination is more important than helping and supporting the American people who are suffering from a deadly pandemic and economic crisis,” Ms Harris said. “Their priorities are not the American people’s priorities. But, for the moment, Senate Republicans hold the majority in the Senate and determine the schedule, so here we are.”
Mr Biden also pointed the focus back on Republicans during his interview with the radio show, saying Americans should oppose the idea of replacing a Supreme Court justice when millions of voters have already cast ballots amid an ongoing election.
The former vice president said on Monday: “That’s the court-packing the public should be focused on.”
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