© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., U.S. June 25, 2021. REUTERS/Ken Cedeno/File Photo
(This October 13 story has corrected to say draft materials, not report)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s commission studying potential U.S. Supreme Court changes such as expanding the number of justices or imposing term limits on them will release early draft materials on Thursday ahead of its forthcoming final report, the White House said on Wednesday.
Biden signed an executive order in April creating the commission. It held its first meeting the following month.
The commission is looking at the issue of expanding beyond the current nine justices or creating a fixed term for justices instead of lifetime appointments.
The Supreme Court currently has a 6-3 conservative majority after Biden’s Republican predecessor Donald Trump made three appointments during four years in office. Trump in 2017 was able to fill a vacancy opened up when his predecessor Barack Obama was in office because Senate Republicans in 2016 blocked consideration of Obama’s nominee to the post, current Attorney General Merrick Garland.
The Supreme Court during its current term is considering major cases in which its conservative majority could restrict abortion rights and widen gun rights, alarming liberals.
Republicans have opposed the idea of expanding the number of justices, which they call “court packing.” Democrats have said the current makeup of the court no longer represents the will of the U.S. electorate.
The last time court expansion was seriously pursued was in the 1930s by Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt after a conservative court impeded his policies aimed at lifting America out of the Great Depression.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters at her daily briefing that the commission will release draft materials on Thursday ahead of a public meeting on Friday, with an eye toward submitting its final report next month.
“The commission will release the draft preliminary discussion materials,” she said on Wednesday.
“They will then form their final report and submit it to the President in mid-November,” Psaki added. “These have not been submitted to the White House for edits or feedback… we’re not going to comment on it — or the President wouldn’t comment on it — until a report is final and he has the chance to review it.”
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