Biden, Harris dodge questions about Supreme Court expansion

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., walk together to speak to the media at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, in Phoenix, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

PHOENIX – There are few topics that Joe Biden isn't willing to opine on — except the Supreme Court.

The Democratic presidential nominee and his running mate, Kamala Harris, are refusing demands from Republicans — and some fellow Democrats — to say whether they would seek to expand the number of justices on the Supreme Court.

Harris dodged persistent questioning about the issue on Wednesday during her debate against Vice President Mike Pence. And facing pressure to take a stance during a campaign swing through Phoenix on Thursday, Biden offered a particularly terse response.

“They’ll know my position on court packing when the election is over,” he said.

In the final weeks of the campaign, Biden is in a bind when it comes to the future of the judiciary. Republicans, increasingly fearful of losing both the presidency and the Senate, are seizing on the issue to make a last-minute argument to voters that a Biden administration would upend norms and install liberals on an expanding Supreme Court. Some progressive Democrats are pressing Biden to embrace all means possible to counter Republican power plays that have pushed the court to the right.

The debate is likely to intensify next week when Senate Republicans start confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett. She would cement a 6-3 conservative majority on the court, the balance already tilted by Republicans’ holding open a vacancy in the 2016 election year by refusing to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee.

Biden and Harris have said the Senate should wait until after the election to fill the seat. Biden has pledged to select the first Black female justice if given a chance. But he and Harris are otherwise taking pains to avoid talking about their vision for the Supreme Court's future.

Tad Devine, a former top adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, said that Trump and his allies are pushing the issue to undercut Biden’s opening with moderate Republicans and that the ticket is wise to dodge the question for now.