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Biden refuses to take position on packing Supreme Court

JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images
Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the first presidential debate at the Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio on September 29, 2020.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday refused to answer a debate question about whether he supports a proposal that would expand the number of seats on the Supreme Court and allow Democrats to confirm additional liberal justices to the bench.

Biden has avoided giving a definitive answer about his position since the question gained salience following the Sept. 18 death of the staunch liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and he again sidestepped it when asked at the first presidential debate.

“Whatever position I take in that, that’ll become the issue,” Biden told debate moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News. “The issue is the American people should speak. You’re voting now. Vote, and let your senators know how you feel.”

President Trump then interjected and pressed for an answer, provoking a strong reaction from Biden, who said: “Would you shut up, man?”

Tuesday’s debate comes just days after Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court.

Ginsburg, who died from cancer at age 87, was a reliably liberal vote who in many respects stands to be replaced by her ideological opposite. If confirmed, Barrett is seen as likely to lend a sympathetic audience to legal challenges targeting abortion rights, the scope of federal agencies and the Affordable Care Act, former President Obama’s sweeping health care law, which faces another GOP-led challenge during the court’s upcoming term.

Democrats fear a rightward shift on the court could radically reshape the lives of millions of Americans. With a 6-3 conservative majority in place, even relatively stable areas of law — such as race relations, voting rights and environmental regulatory power — could be upended, giving conservative activists a chance to reverse liberal gains and cement their own legal agenda for years or decades to come.

Updated: 10:08 p.m.

Tags 2020 election 2020 presidential debates Chris Wallace Donald Trump Joe Biden Ruth Bader Ginsburg Ruth Bader Ginsburg death Supreme Court Supreme Court nomination Supreme Court vacancy

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