Joe Biden has said he is “not a fan” of adding seats to the US Supreme Court.
The Democratic nominee for president’s comments come after weeks of avoiding questions about the idea that has been pushed by progressives and used by Republicans to attack him.
The former US vice president said: “I’ve already spoken on – I’m not a fan of court packing, but I don’t want to get off on that whole issue. I want to keep focused.”
Mr Biden argued that the focus should remain on President Donald Trump and Republicans’ efforts to push through Amy Coney Barrett as a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the election on November 3.
“That’s the court-packing the public should be focused on,” he said.
Mr Biden has expressed opposition to the idea of expanding the Supreme Court before, but in recent weeks notably dodged multiple questions from the media about the proposal, insisting he would answer the question after the election.
Pressure on Mr Biden to respond intensified after his running mate, California senator Kamala Harris, refused to answer the question during her debate with vice president Mike Pence last week.
Ms Harris, however, expressed support for court-packing during her primary bid for president, along with a number of other progressive candidates. Faced with the prospect of a decades-long conservative majority on the court following Ms Ginsburg’s death, the idea of adding seats to the nine-person court has gained renewed traction among Democrats.
Biden evades “Court Packing” question. @FoxNews Because his puppet masters are willing to destroy the U.S. Supreme Court. Don’t let this, and so many other really bad things, happen. VOTE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2020
That has Mr Biden caught between the conflicting pressures of appeasing his progressive base and appealing to more moderate and conservative voters that may be open to voting for him but are reluctant to support such sweeping structural reforms to the court. Mr Biden, who spent years as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, expressed opposition to court-packing throughout the Democratic primary.
“No, I’m not prepared to go on and try to pack the court, because we’ll live to rue that day,” he warned in an interview with a local Iowa political blogger last summer.
In dodging the question in recent weeks, Mr Biden has argued that the proposal is a distraction from Republican efforts to push through Ms Ginsburg’s replacement. But Republicans have seized on Mr Biden’s refusal to answer as evidence he is being disingenuous and would be beholden to the left wing of his party on the issue if elected.
“Biden evades ‘Court Packing’ question. @FoxNews Because his puppet masters are willing to destroy the U.S. Supreme Court. Don’t let this, and so many other really bad things, happen. VOTE!” Mr Trump tweeted earlier this week.