Biden hedges on support for 'court-packing' proposal

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden kept his options open on Thursday when asked if he would add judges to the Supreme Court to balance the 6-3 conservative majority that would likely take hold if President Donald 's third nominee is confirmed.

Biden said he would announce his position before the election, saying it depends on how Republicans, who control the Senate, handle the confirmation process for 's nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, who they plan to vote on before the end of the month.

"I'm open to considering what happens from that point on," Biden said at a town hall event in Philadelphia hosted by ABC News.

His plan, "depends on how much they rush this," Biden said, referring to Senate Republicans.

Biden and his fellow Democrats say the next president should pick the nominee to replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who died last month. Her death gives , who has already made two Supreme Court appointments, the chance to build a solid conservative majority on the court.

Biden said he is "not a fan" of court-packing, which is a contentious idea because the number of Supreme Court justices has been fixed by law at nine for more than a century. Republicans say it would open the door to constant expansion of the court as each party would seek to add new seats to re-balance the bench.

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, speaking at his rival town hall hosted by NBC News, predicted that Barrett, if confirmed, would make a "great decision and that's why I chose her" if ever faced with the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion.

Barrett, during her confirmation hearing this week, repeatedly said she had "no agenda" to roll back abortion rights and both she and have said they did not discuss the issue.

pledged during the 2016 election to appoint justices whose votes would lead to Roe v. Wade being overturned.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Scott Malone and Michael Perry)

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