Democrat lawmakers introduced a bill on Thursday that would expand the Supreme Court from nine justices to thirteen.
A group of progressive Democrat congressmen introduced a controversial bill on Thursday that if made into law would increase the number of judges sitting on the Supreme Court bench from nine to thirteen. The bill, sponsored by House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (NY), Sen. Edward J. Markey (MA) and Reps. Hank Johnson (GA) and Mondaire Jones (NY), was met with opposition from both sides of the aisle. Some Democrat leaders came out publicly against the bill before it was even unveiled, while others expressed interest in the idea but did not throw their support behind the current bill, leaning more toward the exploration and discussion of the move rather than negotiation of active legislation just yet.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi telling reporters she had “no intention” of bringing the bill to the floor. Pelosi did not totally dismiss the idea of expanding the Supreme Court, pointing out that it had been done before over the course of US history. She added that she supports President Biden’s move last week to create a commission to study the ideas of both expanding the bench and implementing term limits for justices. “I think it’s an idea that should be considered and I think the president’s taking the right approach to have a commission to study such a thing,” she said.
Republicans claim the bill is to allow Democrats the chance to appoint more liberal justices after the Republican-led Senate confirmed both Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh in the last four years, in spite of loud protest from the left. Many Democrats on Capitol Hill also believe the legislation is necessary after former Senate leader Mitch McConnell blocked the confirmation of Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in 2016. At the time, McConnell stated his decision was based on the fact that it was an election year and the voters should be allowed to decide who appointed the next Supreme Court justice. McConnell seemingly reversed course last year after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, when he allowed the hasty confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett days before the 2020 general election.
Republicans were quick to speak out against the bill on Thursday, viewing it as a power play by the Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) spoke to Democrats via a news conference on Thursday, asking them, “Does power mean so much to you that absolute power corrupts absolutely, that you will change the courts to capture another form within a judicial power simply to control more?” Nadler addressed this concern in his own discussion with reporters, saying “Some people say we’re packing the court. We’re not packing it. We’re unpacking it,” adding that McConnell and the GOP had “packed the court over the last couple of years. This is a reaction to that. It’s a necessary step in the evolution of the court.”
The number of justices has changed before, after successful efforts by Presidents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant. President Franklin Roosevelt attempted to expand the number of justices in 1937 and was not successful. The Democrats who introduced the bill point out that there are currently nine justices on the bench because in 1869, when the number nine was agreed upon, there were only nine circuit courts. Now there are thirteen circuit courts, so the authors and supporters of the bill believe there should be thirteen justices on the Supreme Court. While this bill is not expected to go far in the legislative process, the idea of Supreme Court expansion promises to persist in Washington, as Democrats become anxious to see whether 82-year old Justice Stephen Breyer will retire soon, leaving a seat for President Biden to fill and potentially flip the Supreme Court to a majority liberal bench.
ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK
POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: THE WASHINGTON POST