Joe Biden Described Court Packing as a ‘Power Grab’ in 2005

“The president had enough members in his own party and the Senate to convict him, but members of the president’s own party stood up to their president, the Senate as an institution stood against the executive overreaching in his own party,” Biden said in the Senate speech, stating that the upper chamber “again stood firm in ’37 in the court-packing attempt.”

“This particular example, the Senate’s resolve is instructive to today’s debates, so let me describe in some detail,” he began, describing former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s attempt to pack the courts to aid his New Deal legislation:

In the summer of ’37, Roosevelt had just come off of a landslide victory over Alf Landon. He had a Congress made up off of solid New Dealers, but the nine old men of the Court were thwarting his agenda. In this environment, Roosevelt — I remember this old adage about power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely — corrupted by power, in my view, unveiled his court-packing plan.

“He wanted to increase the number of justices to 15, allowing himself to nominate those additional judges,” then-Sen. Biden (D-DE) said. “It took an act of courage on the part of his own party institutionally to stand up against this power grab”:

Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) have refused to say if a Biden-Harris administration would move to pack the court. Harris dodged the question during Wednesday evening’s vice presidential debate, after Vice President Mike Pence asked her directly. However, she said she was “absolutely” open to the idea during an interview with the New York Times in 2019.

Biden has since said that voters will know his position on court packing “when the election is over.” He refused to answer the question again on Friday, instead remarking that “it’s a legitimate question for you to ask.”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Biden said. “In the meantime, they should not be going forward with this vote.”