Washington (CNN)Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Monday that he’s “not a fan” of court-packing, providing his clearest position on an issue he has sought to avoid discussing following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“I’m not a fan of court-packing, but I don’t want to get off on that whole issue,” Biden told CNN affiliate WKRC in Cincinnati. “I want to keep focused. The President would love nothing better than to fight about whether or not I would, in fact, pack the court or not pack the court.”
Last week, Biden told reporters he would not address the issue until after the November 3 election, but his comments Monday go further than when he has demurred in his recent answers on the issue following the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by Ginsburg.
With the Republican-controlled Senate likely to confirm President Donald Trump’s third Supreme Court justice, creating a solid 6-3 conservative majority, some progressive members of the Democratic Party have floated the idea of expanding the size of the high court — and adding liberal justices — should Biden win and Republicans lose control of the Senate.
Some of those in the progressive wing of the party see adding seats to the court as the only way to protect landmark decisions like the one made in Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion in the US.
Biden, a former longtime senator, is an institutionalist who has centered his campaign on a return to normalcy and civility. Polls show he is winning over moderates, and he is hesitant to give Trump any new ammunition to link him to his party’s progressive wing.
As the so-called court-packing concept has increasingly entered the fray in recent weeks, both Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, have refused to answer questions about their positions on it, including during their respective debates with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
During the primary, Biden was consistent in his opposition to court-packing. He said during a Democratic presidential debate last October that he “would not get into court-packing,” adding, “We had three justices. Next time around, we lose control, they add three justices. We begin to lose any credibility the court has at all.”
He reiterated his position and this rationale when a voter asked him about his position on expanding the court during a town hall in Iowa later in December. He also told the Iowa Starting Line earlier this year that he opposed court-packing because Democrats will “live to rue the day.”
For her part, Harris would not answer questions from Pence when he pressed her on the issue during their debate last week, with the vice president saying, “You gave a non-answer. Joe Biden gave a non-answer.”
“The American people deserve a straight answer, and if you haven’t figured it out yet, the straight answer is, they are going to pack the Supreme Court,” Pence claimed at the debate.
CNN’s Eric Bradner contributed to this report.