Biden in 1983: FDR's Failed Court-Packing Scheme was a 'Bone Head' Plan and a 'Terrible Mistake'

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Posted: Mar 21, 2019 10:30 AM
Biden in 1983: FDR's Failed Court-Packing Scheme was a 'Bone Head' Plan and a 'Terrible Mistake'

Via the Free Beacon, a highly relevant flashback clip of Uncle Joe, who's reportedly on the precipice of jumping into the leftward-lurching 2020 presidential primary -- in which a growing number of his competitors are embracing or flirting with various "reforms" to the High Court.  Here's Biden as a member  of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1983, explaining why FDR's nakedly-political, power-hungry effort to overhaul SCOTUS was a disaster.  This is all correct, by the way, but the question is whether he still believes it.  Or, perhaps more importantly, if he's willing to say he still believes it:

Former vice president Joe Biden slammed the "bonehead idea" of packing the Supreme Court during a 1983 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, saying the last attempt put into question the independence of the Court for a decade. The remark didn't come during a hearing for a judge, but rather during debate over whether to allow President Ronald Reagan to replace members of the Commission on Civil Rights. Biden opposed the nominated commissioners not because he viewed them as unqualified, but because he thought Reagan's takeover of the commission would damage its legitimacy. He compared it to Roosevelt's court-packing push, which he called a "terrible, terrible mistake."

If Biden runs, he'll inevitably be asked about these quotes. His response will be telling. He could stick to his institutionalist guns, possibly inflaming the left-wing base, which will already greet him with suspicion and antipathy. Or he could feel forced to offer up some justification about how "things have changed," so now it's worth considering for some reason. That justification could very well involve the Merrick Garland episode, which is a completely specious comparison -- especially considering the GOP's reliance on the...Biden Rule to hold a vacant seat open until after a presidential election.  Joe's old quotes have a way of re-emerging at opportune moments, don't they?  

Another interesting question amid this Banana Republic-style madness is whether it's all just bluster and pandering anyway.  Such an enormous and historic power grab would likely generate at least some skeptical-to-hostile coverage from the mainstream press, and you can bet that a solid number of Senate Democrats (particularly those not running for president) would not be terribly excited about racing off another precedent-setting cliff on this front.  I asked Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) about this situation on Benson & Harf, and he said that based on what he's seen and heard, he believes there would be bipartisan Senate opposition to such a plan: 


I'll leave you with a possible cop-out answer Biden could also emulate if he wants to run away from his previous and sensible position, courtesy of Beto -- who's desperately explaining away some inconvenient fiscal sanity he espoused a few years back:

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The Democratic primary: A math-free zone.  I'm not sure that's even an exaggeration.