Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said Saturday that he would be willing to consider expanding the size of the Supreme Court in response to a question increasingly confronting Senate Democratic candidates.
In the final debate of the Montana Senate race, the Democrat Bullock accused Republicans of “trying to politicize the court every step of the way.”
“[W]e have to figure out ways to make it less political,” Mr. Bullock said. “So I’m open to that, and that’s anything from a judicial standards commission, or we’ll look at any other thing that might be suggested, including adding justices.”
Sen. Steve Daines, Montana Republican, said that “at least we finally got an answer” before ripping the idea of enlarging the high court.
“Steve Bullock just said he’s open to packing the court. That’s a yes,” Mr. Daines said during the remote debate. “I don’t think we should pack the courts. If you want to politicize the courts, for heaven’s sake, you pack them. He just said he’s willing to do that.”
Mr. Bullock responded that “you’re packing the court right now,” referring to Mr. Trump’s nomination of Judge Barrett.
“You just did pack the court, Sen. Daines,” Mr. Bullock said. “Four years ago, you said, no, we should never confirm a justice when people are voting, let the people decide, and now that’s the most important thing to you.”
Mr. Daines added that “even Joe Biden won’t answer that question right now,” a reference to the Democratic presidential candidate, who has refused to take a position on court-packing.
Asked Saturday if voters “deserve to know” his stance on adding justices, Mr. Biden replied, “No, they don’t deserve … I’m not going to play his game,” referring to President Trump.
The issue has also dogged Colorado Senate candidate John Hickenlooper. At Friday’s debate on Denver7, the Democrat dodged queries from the moderator on whether he would support adding justices if U.S. District Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed.
“I think the first task you have to do, you have to go and get new senators in place, new people, and I think that will change the institution, more than immediately changing the rules,” said Mr. Hickenlooper, a former two-term governor.
Republican Sen. Cory Gardner responded by yielding his time “for John Hickenlooper to actually answer the question.”
“I’m happy to repeat the answer I gave,” said Mr. Hickenlooper, prompting Mr. Gardner to ask, “Yes or no?” The former Democratic governor said, “I have no intention of …” before being cut off by the bell.
Democrats on the left, including Massachusetts Sen. Edward Markey, have called for adding justices if Judge Barrett is approved, which Republicans have opposed. There have been nine justices on the high court since 1869.
Mr. Daines said that a larger court would be “a threat to our Second Amendment and our very liberty and freedoms.”
Both Mr. Bullock and Mr. Hickenlooper were unsuccessful candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination before jumping into the Senate races against the first-term Republican incumbents.