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Progressives blast Biden plan to form panel on Supreme Court reform

Progressive groups are blasting Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden transition adds new members to coronavirus task force MORE’s plan to form a commission to study judiciary reforms and whether justices should be added to the Supreme Court.

As Senate Republicans prepare to confirm President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE’s third Supreme Court justice, progressives are calling on Democratic leaders to add justices to the Supreme Court if they win the White House and Senate.

For weeks, Biden has steadfastly refused to answer whether he supports “court packing.” Rather, the Democratic nominee said in an interview with “60 Minutes” released Thursday that he’d create a bipartisan panel to study it if he’s elected.

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Progressives at leading left-wing groups panned the idea.

“We don’t need to be promised a nice report about reform delivered to the White House, we need Vice President Biden to assure Americans that he will take bold action to ensure our courts don’t remain dominated by a right-wing fringe installed by Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge Biden and reproductive health rights Biden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls MORE to attack abortion rights, destroy health care reform, and dismantle our democracy,” said Yvette Simpson, the CEO of the progressive group Democracy for America.

Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said there’s no way Republicans on the proposed panel will join progressives in the effort to “restore balance” to the courts.

"Joe Biden's nonpartisan court commission is a gambit,” Green said. “He basically says that if you put conservative legal thinkers in a room with progressive ones, they will agree that Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans have politicized the courts in order to take away health care, worker rights, and voting rights — and that America needs to unpack the courts and restore balance."

Demand Justice called the plan a "punt."

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"We certainly do not need a commission to tell us that Republicans are on the verge of stealing their second Supreme Court seat in four years and that the Roberts Court routinely sides with voter suppression schemes that advantage the Republican party," said executive director Brian Fallon.

“This proposed commission runs the risk of stalling momentum for serious reform. The window when Democrats may have the power to implement Court reform may be short, and the timeline for a commission would only constrict the window further. Chief Justice Roberts has proven adept at keeping the Court’s public profile low whenever scrutiny mounts, and then resuming the Court’s rightward march when attention recedes. A commission that would allow opponents of structural reform to run out the clock is not a solution; it’s a punt.”

Still, some of the nation’s leading progressives have sided with Biden.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersClub for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Inequality of student loan debt underscores possible Biden policy shift In defense of incrementalism: A call for radical realism MORE (I-Vt.) has said he opposes adding justices because subsequent administrations will continue to add until it “delegitimizes the court.”

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenInequality of student loan debt underscores possible Biden policy shift Thomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE (D-Mass.) told The Hill that Biden’s idea “is aiming in the right direction.”

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"There are lots of ways to get there and I think that the Vice President is aiming in the right direction and that is making sure that we have courts that we can trust. And understand,” Warren said. “The problems are not just at the Supreme Court level. Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans have been ramming through people who are openly racist, sexist, homophobic, opposed to voting, ramming those people through for lifetime appointments. We have a lot to think about in our court system.”

For several weeks now, Biden has declined to say whether he supports adding justices to the Supreme Court, saying it would take attention away from GOP efforts to confirm a Supreme Court justice at this late date in the election cycle.

It’s a thorny question for Biden, who risks angering the left if he comes out in opposition to court packing, and risks turning off swing voters if he says he supports it.

A New York Times-Siena College survey released this week found that 58 percent of all voters oppose adding justices to the Supreme Court if Judge Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettFor Thanksgiving, the Supreme Court upholds religious liberty Cardinal Dolan hails Supreme Court decision on churches, COVID-19 Cuomo blames new conservative majority for high court's COVID-19 decision MORE is confirmed, compared to only 31 percent who support it. Fifty-seven percent of Democrats support court packing, but 65 percent of independents oppose it.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Biden said he'd ask a bipartisan commission of “scholars, constitutional scholars, Democrats, Republicans, liberal [and] conservative” for recommendations on how to reform the courts.