President-elect Joe Biden has been dodging the question around “packing” the Supreme Court, but the recent ruling to block the enforcement of Covid-19 restrictions on religious congregations could prompt the Democrat to reveal his stance.
Before the US elections, President Donald Trump announced the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the top court seat, replacing liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg who died in September. Later, Senate confirmed the nomination of Barrett, which gave the Supreme Court a 6-3 conservative majority.
On the night before Thanksgiving, newly-inducted Barrett sided with her conservative colleagues to block New York Governor Andrew Cuomo from enforcing Covid-19 restrictions, which limited the number of people attending religious services. While Chief Justice John Roberts joined the liberal justices in dissent, the 5-4 ruling highlighted Barrett’s impact on the court.
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What is ‘court-packing’?
‘Court-packing’ means adding seats to the bench of the US Supreme Court by passing a law. The strength of the bench has remained at nine for 151 years and there is no term limit on the top court justices. In such a scenario, a judge can serve in the apex court for decades, which makes an appointment highly consequential on contentious matters.
Barrett is popular among the religious conservatives and anti-abortion campaigners and it was expected that her appointment would impact some of the most partisan issues. During the first presidential debate, Fox News moderator had asked Biden on his thought over packing the Supreme Court.
“Whatever position I take, it will become an issue,” said Biden, refusing to share his stance on the matter.
At a campaign rally in Arizona, Biden reiterated that he would not discuss court-packing till the presidential elections, arguing that his comment would divert the attention from other burning issues. While Biden’s comment indicated that the issue was not central to the Democratic campaign, it has been one of the most debated topics around the Supreme Court, and people of the United States could get their answer soon.