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Biden says he'll give answer on court packing before election

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Thursday he will come out with a clear position before Election Day about where he stands on expanding the Supreme Court, depending how the rest of the confirmation process of Judge Amy Coney Barrett is handled

At a town hall with  ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Biden again said Thursday night that he's "not a fan" of court packing but was asked by Stephanopoulos if he was open to increasing the number of judges on the court if Barrett is confirmed before the election. 

"I'm open to considering what happens from that point on," Biden said. 

Republicans have repeatedly criticized Biden for not directly giving his view on court packing. Biden was asked whether voters had a right to know where he stands on the issue of expanding the court. 

"They do have a right to know where I'll stand and they'll have a right to know where I stand before they vote," Biden said. 

Election 2020 Biden
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participates in a town hall with moderator ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. Carolyn Kaster / AP

When asked if he would make his position clear before Election Day, Biden said, "Yes, depending on how they handle this." He appeared to be referring to Republicans. 

Biden made the remarks about court packing during a town hall on ABC, which was scheduled after the Commission on Presidential Debates canceled the second scheduled debate between Biden and President Trump. 

The commission decided to make the second debate virtual after Mr. Trump tested positive for the coronavirus. The Trump campaign refused to participate in a virtual debate. While Biden held his town hall, the president participated in a town hall on NBC from Florida. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee finished its confirmation hearings for Barrett earlier on Thursday. Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said that the committee will vote on Barrett's nomination on October 22. If the committee approves her nomination, which is expected, it would be sent to the full Senate floor. 

Progressives have floated the idea of expanding the court beyond nine justices after Republicans moved quickly to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's former seat before the presidential election. If Barrett is confirmed, it would solidify a 6-3 conservative majority on the court. Democrats have insisted that the winner of the election should pick the next justice. 

Expanding the number of justices on the court would take an act of Congress and approval from the president. This isn't the first time a president has pushed it: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt floated increasing the Supreme Court to 15 justices while he was in office. 

In 2019, Biden said he was opposed to adding justices to the bench to balance the ideological makeup of the court. On Monday, he told CBS Cincinnati affiliate WKRC-TV, "I'm not a fan of court packing, but I don't want to get off on that whole issue. I want to keep focused."

Biden was also asked by a voter about how to bring bipartisan cooperation back to Washington. The former vice president and senator said he'd reach out to Republicans to find common ground and believes some GOP members would work with him on certain issues. 

"I'm going to pick up the phone and call them and say, 'let's get together," Biden said. "There's so many things we really do agree on. And with Trump out of the way, the vindictiveness of a president going after Republicans who don't do exactly what he says gets taken away."

Biden also spoke about passing a bill for funding cancer research before he and President Obama left office, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered to name the bill after Biden's son Beau, who died from cancer in 2015.

"Mitch McConnell stood up and I was presiding officer and moved to name the bill after my deceased son Beau," Biden said. "There are ways to bring this together."

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