Oct 14, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Obama warns against "explicit political games"

Photo of Barack Obama's side profile as he looks to his left

Former President Obama attends the premiere of Netflix's "Descendant" during the Martha's Vineyard African-American Film Festival on Aug. 5 in Edgartown, Mass. Photo: Arturo Holmes via Getty Images for Netflix

Former President Obama said Friday in an interview with Pod Save America that he is open to reforming the Supreme Court to regain Americans' trust but warned against "explicit political games."

Why it matters: Since the conservative majority overturned Roe v. Wade, polling has shown widespread disapproval of the Supreme Court. Americans' confidence in the institution is at an all-time low, according to Gallup.

What he's saying: When asked if he'd consider reforms to address challenges with voters' distrust of the Supreme Court, Obama said on the podcast, "I'm open to it."

  • "I think it has to be thought through," he added during the interview, which premiered Friday on SiriusXM Progress.
  • "One of the arguments we made at the time when [Mitch] McConnell decided that ... [Merrick Garland] wouldn’t even get a hearing or a vote, is that if you start playing such explicit political games in the appointment process, it’s hard for people not to feel as if this is just an extension of day-to-day congressional politics as opposed to — the Supreme Court stands above, to some degree, those politics."
  • "And I think winning back that trust is going to take some time," he noted. "I'm not sure it's even going to be solved unless we solve some of the underlying polarization."

Flashback: In 2016, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to consider Obama's nomination of Garland, now the attorney general, as a justice to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

The big picture: Polling has consistently shown that the majority of Americans support Roe — the Supreme Court's decision reignited debate over whether it truly represents the interests of its people.

  • Nearly half of Americans think the Supreme Court holds too much power, according to a Yahoo News/YouGov poll released in July.
  • President Biden's Supreme Court commission has shown strong interest in imposing terms limits, though Biden himself has not weighed in.
  • "Among the world’s democracies, at least 27 have term limits for their constitutional courts," the commission wrote in its final report.

Worth noting: Leaders of both parties have long accused the other — and justices — of politicizing the Supreme Court.

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