This spring, the networks were thrilled at Joe Biden’s plan to pack the Supreme Court. But now that the President’s commission on the Court has come back with a muddled, non-answer, ABC, CBS and NBC on Thursday night and Friday morning were silent over the embarrassment.
Reuters explained the findings: “A White House commission studying potential changes to the U.S. Supreme Court said expanding the number of justices would pose ‘considerable’ risks and might further politicize the court, according to preliminary draft documents released on Thursday.”
The commission suggested term limits, but, as Reuters noted, “it might not be possible to make such a change without amending the U.S. Constitution.”
The networks were not able to cover yet another defeat of the progressive Biden agenda on Thursday or Friday. Instead, they remained silent for seven hours each of morning and evening newscasts.
MSNBC’s Justice Correspondent Pete Williams demonstrated Friday how insignificant the entire commission was after Biden threw the decision at them.
JOSE DIAZBALART: Pete. What is the weight of this commission?
PETE WILLIAMS (in a sense): These aren’t formal recommendations, and even though they may be, the President will decide how to use them. He is the one who will make these recommendations. To him, these are feelings. This would mean that Congress will likely be required to get involved no matter what.
This is quite a contrast to the spring when ABC and NBC justified expanding the number of justices, citing Democratic “fury” over the new “conservative” Supreme Court. This will take effect on April 15, 2021. Today’s Kasie Hunt rationalized, “The push from progressives to do it now is an effort to dilute a conservative majority that could shape the law for generations.”
She added, “Progressive fury over the Court has been growing after former President Trump appointed three conservative justices.” On the same day’s Good Morning America, Rachel Scott declared, “Progressive Democrats say this is absolutely necessary to restore the balance of the Supreme Court.”
But, the best time to do this is in the spring. PoliticoThe poll showed that court packing is hugely unpopular. However, networks collectively laughed it off. Indeed, last fall, the same networks hid Biden’s refusal to say whether he supported expanding the Court.
The President seems to have suffered another setback for his agenda and ABC, CBS and NBC are trying to pretend it’s not yet another failure.
Below is a partial transcript. Click “expand” to read more.
José Díaz-Balart Reports
JOSE DIAZBALART: President Biden’s commission to examine the U.S. Supreme Court has begun a day-long virtual meeting. This comes one day after President Biden and his panel published their initial findings regarding various arguments for reforming the nation’s highest judiciary, including expanding it. However, it didn’t make any recommendations. After liberal pressure, the president set up the commission in April to add justices following Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s conformation just before 2020. With me now is NBC justice correspondent — Justice Correspondent Pete Williams and Melissa Murry, a professor of law for New York University who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor when she was a federal judge. She is also a MSNBC legal analyst. Pete, run me through some of the panel’s findings when it comes to reforming the U.S. Supreme Court?
PETER WILLIAMS (Commission): The commission splits on the question of whether it would make sense to expand the court’s size. Many believe it would weaken the Court’s credibility and be seen as a political maneuver. That’s basically the same criticism that Stephen Breyer had for this idea. However, they are much more favorable to 18-year term limitations. According to them, almost all states have either term limits or mandatory retirement age for judges of their highest courts. The U.S. is the only democracy with both. Under the system that the court — that the commission discusses, every President’s term in office would produce two supreme court nominations, making the court more responsive to the people, the report says, and reducing the tendencies of presidents that every younger nominees who can stay on the court for 30 years or more.
They do note that the average length of time served on the court has been 26 years, while it used to be around 15 years. According to the commissioners, this system allows political parties to influence the Court’s direction in a way that is not proportional to their success rate at the polls. Although Congress may be capable of making this change on its own, the commissioners believe that a constitutional amendment is the best course of action. They suggest that it be made so that the system kicks in during the term a future President, so that voters wouldn’t be affected by who that president was. Jose is an academic favorite, and this report shows that the concept of term limits for Supreme Court judges has been seriously considered.
DIAZBALART: Pete. What is the weight of this commission?
WILLIAMS: In a certain sense there is none. These aren’t formal recommendations, and even though they may be, the President will decide how to use them. He is the one who will make these recommendations. To him, these are feelings. Of course, Congress will have to participate in all of this regardless. Even if there is a constitutional change, it would still be possible for Congress to propose one to the States. Although you could have an amendment via constitutional convention, it’s very complicated. It would be necessary to have congressional approval in order for this change to take place.