Vice presidential debate: Kamala Harris ducks Pence’s court-packing question

Vice presidential debate: Kamala Harris ducks Pence’s court-packing question

October 8, 2020

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Vice President Mike Pence hammered Sen. Kamala Harris Wednesday night over whether Democrats would pack the Supreme Court should they not “get their way,” and should Judge Amy Coney Barrett be confirmed to the high court before Election Day.

During the vice presidential debate, Pence said that the “American people really deserve an answer” on court packing, after Democratic nominee Joe Biden ducked the question during the first presidential debate last week.

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“Are you and Joe Biden going to pack the court if Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed? Are you going to pack the court?” Pence asked. “Your party is actually openly advocating adding seats to the Supreme Court, which has had 9 seats for 150 years, if you don’t get your way.”

Pence added that the threat from Democrats is a “classic case of ‘if you can’t win by the rules, you change the rules.”

Harris did not respond.

Pence revisited the question, saying that the “American people would really like to know, if she is confirmed, are you and Joe Biden, if somehow you win this election, going to pack the Supreme Court to get your way?”

Democrats have threatened to pack the Supreme Court if President Trump’s nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who was tapped to fill the vacancy left by late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is confirmed ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

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The idea of “packing” the court with extra justices – attempted unsuccessfully by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937 to force through parts of his New Deal that were ruled unconstitutional by the high court – has bubbled away on the fringes of the party for years.

Harris fired back, mum on the issue of court packing, but saying that the “American people deserve to make the decision” of “who will serve for a lifetime.”

“Joe and I are very clear the American people are voting right now, and it should be their decision about who will serve on this most important body for a lifetime," she said.

Democrats have objected to a confirmation so close to the election, citing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland in 2016.

McConnell, though, has said that it is a different situation as the White House and the Senate are not held by opposing parties.

Republicans, though, appear to have the votes to move forward and confirm Barrett. Republicans have 53 votes in the Senate and can therefore afford three defections if no Democrat votes for the nominee. In that instance, Vice President Mike Pence would be called in to break a tie.

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Barrett’s confirmation hearing is set to begin on Oct. 12 before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Harris sits on, and run through Oct. 15.

But Pence pushed Harris again on this issue, asking, once again, “if you and Joe Biden are going to pack the Supreme Court?”

Harris finally responded, saying, “Let’s talk about packing the court then.”

“I have witnessed appointments for lifetime appointments to federal courts,” Harris said, referring to her time on the Judiciary Committee during the Trump administration. “People who are purely ideological, who have been reviewed and found to have been not competent, or substandard.”

She went on to say that “of the 50 people Trump appointed to the Court of Appeals—lifetime appointments—no one is Black.”

“Want to talk about packing a court?” Harris said. “Let’s have that discussion.”

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