#GOPCourtPacking: How Joe Biden reframed the court-packing question, and why it's driving Republicans nuts.


The Biden-Harris campaign has found its voice on the media-manufactured controversy on court-packing.

Joe Biden had originally sought to stay out of the fray on the question of possible addition of court seats, but the press, desperate to have something - anything - to stick on a candidate who has thus far been unblemished and Teflon, kept at their attempt to drag Joe Biden and Kamala Harris into a Republican talking point.

But the constant hounding appears to have backfired and turned into an opportunity for Democrats to highlight how Republicans have been abusing the process and their power to stack the federal judiciary with far-right ideologues. The Biden campaign and Democrats across the board have turned the question of court-packing, which as I have pointed out at its core is a question of judicial balance, on its head and turned the aim at Republicans.

Since Kamala Harris debuted it at the vice presidential debate on Wednesday, the Biden campaign and Democrats have consistently made the argument that It is Republicans who have been packing the court - that is, it is Republicans who have been stacking the federal judiciary with ultraconservative and often unqualified judges, after intentionally holding open over 100 judicial vacancies that occurred under President Obama since 2014 for Donald Trump to fill.

It's not something that McConnell has shied away from taking credit for, either. He openly bragged on Fox News that he intentionally left open vacancies that opened up under President Obama in a chuckling moment with Sean Hannity.

Democrats are now making the case that the refusal by a Republican Senate to consider more than 100 qualified nominees for the federal bench in the last two years President Obama was in office - which was capped by their hypocritical denial of a hearing and a vote for a Supreme Court candidate nominated by President Obama 10 months before votes were cast in 2016 - and their rush of confirmations during the Trump years - capped by the most current Supreme Court nominee less than a month before this election - are purposeful, cynical, and calculating. They are making the case that the theft of those seats is the real court-packing, and that if we are going to have a conversation about court-packing, we are going to expose the GOP's bloody hands.

The problem that the Republicans did not think through when they began pushing the court-packing line is that if the media makes something an issue and hounds someone with a question, they are then obligated to air the responses. And the Democratic response is as close to pitch-perfect as it gets.

Biden himself echoed his running mate on Saturday, saying the only court-packing occurring at the moment was that being done by Republicans.

The Democratic response hit the airwaves in a big way on the Sunday shows, where Biden surrogates and other Democrats hammered the message home in a unified, impressive show of message discipline. And Democratic Twitter got #GOPCourtPacking trending. The clip of McConnell above now has almost 7 million views on Twitter alone.

The success and unified nature of Democratic messaging is driving Republicans - who evidently did not anticipate the Biden camp's capability to turn the issue back on them - up the giant columns of the Supreme Court building. Conservative commentators, right-wing newspapers, and Republicans in Congress are presently engaged in fervently explaining why GOP's own court-packing shouldn't count as court-packing.

Republicans won't have much luck arguing that what they have done to steal seats in the federal judiciary is legal and Constitutional, because so is what they oppose: adding seats. Just like the Constitution gives the Senate the role of advice and consent on judicial nomination, it allows Congress to determine the number of seats on federal courts.

While Republicans are dying mad that Democrats have brilliantly co-opted the term court-packing and busy trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube about why the term should only have one definition (the legislative addition of a seat), they are missing out on why the Democratic message is working: this isn't about being a stickler about terminology; this is about fairness and balance in the federal judiciary.

And in doing so, Republicans are completely failing to address the actual issue about the courts in the minds of voters: the skewing of the courts by right wing activists on the bench and a tipping point where the federal court system, packed by ideological conservatives, is attacking and undermining the Constitutional rights of the vulnerable.

That's why Biden's message is hitting stride. While Republicans get defensive and bogged down about the precise definition of an inherently political term, Biden is focused on making the case that an ultra-conservative, ideological judiciary would fail to do what is embedded in the title of the people who wear the robes on the nation's highest court: justice.