President Joe Biden on Friday formed a bipartisan commission to study potential U.S. Supreme Court changes including expanding the number of justices beyond the current nine.
Under an executive order signed by the Democratic president, the 36-member commission will consider the “merits and legality” of potential reforms to the nation’s top judicial body.
Among other things, the commission will examine the merits in adding justices or imposing term limits on their service instead of the current lifetime appointments.
The number of Supreme Court justices has remained at nine since 1869, but Congress has the power to change the number and did so several times before that.
Imposing term limits would likely require a constitutional amendment, though some scholars have proposed ways to accomplish it by statute.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the commission will represent the full political spectrum.
It will include liberal and conservative legal scholars, former federal judges and lawyers who have appeared before the court.
It will hold public meetings and have 180 days to report its findings.
Biden promised in October, late in the presidential election campaign, to establish the commission – a step that enabled him to avoid taking a firm position on the proposal floated by some liberals to expand the court, though he has opposed the idea in the past.
Republicans fiercely oppose the idea of what is sometimes called “court packing.”
Some Democrats and liberal activists have said all options including expansion must be considered to counter an entrenched conservative majority that could threaten abortion rights, civil rights, gun control and access to healthcare in the coming years.