Joe Biden favors packing the Supreme Court.
That much is clear following the Democratic nominee’s appearance Thursday in a town hall event hosted by ABC News, where he hid behind meaningless caveats to obscure what is obviously his real position on the matter.
Moderator George Stephanopoulos tried repeatedly to get Biden to answer the court-packing question. Biden tried at first to dodge the question. He then said he is open to the idea, pending how Senate Republicans “handle this.” Biden then settled on promising to reveal his actual position before Election Day.
It was all a long-winded way of saying “yes” without coming right out and saying it.
“Once an election begins,” Biden said as he explained why he opposes the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, “by implication, it is inconsistent with the constitutional principles … I believe it's inconsistent when millions of people already voted to put someone on the court.”
Stephanopoulos asked Biden to address the Left's call to expand the court.
"I have not been a fan of court-packing," said Biden.
Asked Stephanopoulos, “So, you’re still not a fan?”
“Well, I'm not a fan — it depends on how this turns out,” said Biden, "how it's handled."
The moderator asked the Democratic candidate to define “how it’s handled.”
“There's actually real, live debate on the floor if people are really going to be able to have a time to go through this,” said Biden, flailing at having his nonanswer challenged. “You know, I don't know anybody who's gone on the floor and just — and that's been a controversial justice in terms of making, fundamentally altering the makeup of the court that has gone through in a day kind of thing.”
This is a verbatim quote, by the way. It makes no sense. That is because it is Biden scrambling desperately to dance around his actual position, which, given his past remarks and positions, is clearly pro-court-packing. In his panic, the best he could come up with was a nonsense tirade about floor debates and altering the court.
“I mean,” Biden continued, “it depends on how much they rush this. … Don't rush this through.”
Biden, looking for an offramp, segued into complaining that Senate Republicans have made time for the Barrett nomination but not a COVID-19 relief bill (Senate Democrats blocked the GOP's coronavirus legislation in September). Stephanopoulos circled back to the main point, noting that the Senate will likely vote on Barrett around Halloween. The host then pressed, asking if Biden is open to “expanding the court” if Barrett is confirmed before Election Day.
“I'm open to considering what happens from that point on,” Biden evaded, to which Stephanopoulos responded by bringing up the Democratic nominee’s own words, saying it is important to “level” with the people.
“No matter what answer I gave you,” complained Biden, “if I say it, that's the headline tomorrow. It won't be about what's going on now, the improper way they're proceeding.”
Barrett’s nomination is neither “rushed” nor “improper.” Biden, who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, is smart enough to know this.
Stephanopoulos then asked if voters have the right to know where Biden stands on the issue.
“They do have a right to know where I stand, and they’ll have a right to know where I stand before they vote,” said Biden.
That is quite a thing to say, considering his earlier remarks. It is important, Biden says, that the Senate pause Barrett’s nomination because millions of votes are being cast right now. Also, Biden says, he cannot tell you his position on court-packing even though millions of votes are being cast right now.
“So, you'll come out with a clear position before Election Day?” asked the moderator.
“Yes,” said Biden, adding, “depending on how they handle this.”
Again, that is a meaningless caveat. The Barrett Senate hearings are over. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky almost certainly has all the necessary votes secured. Barrett’s confirmation appears to be a done deal. What more is there to “handle”? What more does Biden, himself a former senator and member of the Senate Judiciary, expect to happen? What set of circumstances in the Senate would push him off the fence he is pretending to straddle?
The answer is: There are none. Biden knows as well as anyone that McConnell basically has this thing tied up, and there is nothing Senate Republicans can do short of withdrawing or pausing Barrett’s nomination to satisfy the Democratic nominee’s “depends on how this turns out” dodge. Biden, who claims falsely that Barrett’s nomination is “rushed” and “improper,” has already made up his mind. That seems clear enough after Thursday.
I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so.