Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden at an ABC town hall Thursday night equivocated on whether he would pack the Supreme Court or institute a mandate to take a coronavirus vaccine even as he gave definitive statements on other issues, including that he would not ban fracking and a strong condemnation that the “Green New Deal” is “not possible.”
Biden’s town hall on ABC happened parallel to a separate event on NBC with President Trump, after a presidential debate initially scheduled for Thursday was canceled because Trump refused to participate in a virtual debate. Biden was quizzed by voters from both sides of the aisle and the forum was moderated by “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos.
“I have not been a fan of pack — court-packing, because I think it just generates what will happen every — whoever wins, it just keeps moving in a way that is inconsistent with what is going to be manageable,” Biden said in response to a question that touched on court-packing before Stephanopoulos pushed him for a clearer answer.
“I would then say, it depends on how this turns out… how it’s handled,” Biden said regarding the pending confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. “If there’s actually real live debate on the floor, if people are really going to be able to have a time to go through this — you know, I don’t know anybody who has gone on the floor and just — and that’s been a controversial justice, in terms of making — fundamentally altering the makeup of the court, that’s gone through in a day, kind of thing.”
Biden added: “It depends on how much they rush this.”
Stephanopoulos asked Biden whether voters would have an answer on court-packing before Election day and Biden responded “Yes, depending on how they handle this.”
Biden also said whether or not he would issue a national vaccine mandate “depends on the state of the nature of the vaccine when it comes and how it’s being distributed.”
He noted there is a range of outcomes of how effective a vaccine might be, and that distributing a vaccine to more than 300 million Americans is going to be a herculean task.
Stephanopoulos then asked Biden “How could you enforce that?” Biden replied that “you couldn’t, that’s the problem” before seeming to imply that it’s possible to have a quasi-mandate by requiring children to have a coronavirus vaccine before coming to school.
“You can’t come to school until you have a measles shot,” Biden noted. “You can’t.”
Biden also said that it’s not possible to have a national mask mandate but he would tell all governors to issue statewide mask mandates, and if governors resisted he would “go to every mayor, I go to every councilman, I go to every local official, say, mandate the mask, man.”
Biden was clearer on other issues. He stated plainly that “I do not propose banning fracking.” Biden also came out with one of his strongest condemnations of the “Green New Deal” to date, contradicting the statement on his website which says “Biden believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.”
“My deal is a crucial framework, but not the new green deal,” Biden said. “The new green deal calls for the elimination of all non-renewable energy by 2030. You can’t get there.”
Biden later emphasized that “the new green deal they say automatically by 2030 we’re going to be carbon-free. Not possible.”
The former vice president, addressing his personal climate plan, said he would roll back subsidies for oil and invest in new technology, among other things.
Because the second presidential debate was canceled and replaced with the Thursday night town halls, there is only one more scheduled face-to-face battle between Biden and Trump before the Nov. 3 election.
That debate is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 22 at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. The Supreme Court is likely to be one among many hot topics at that debate, as the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to report the Barrett nomination at 1 p.m. that day, just hours before the start of the debate.