Democrats will introduce legislation in the lower chamber to expand the Supreme Court. According to information provided by The Intercept, the representatives’ idea is to increase the number of seats from 9 to 13.
“The bill would add four seats to the high court, bringing the total to 13 from the current nine. The bill is led by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, subcommittee Chairman Hank Johnson and first-term Rep. Mondaire Jones,” explained reporter Ryan Grim. “In the Senate, the bill is being championed by Ed Markey of Massachusetts.”
This Thursday, Democrats are expected to introduce legislation that will be strongly opposed by Republicans. There are also doubts about whether the bill will be supported among moderate Democrats, such as Joe Manchin (D-WV), who at the time said he was not in favor of eliminating filibustering and expanding the Supreme Court.
Democrats not only need to pass the bill through the House, but also get 60 votes in the Senate where the seats are split 50-50 and the deciding vote is with Vice-President Kamala Harris. The other option for Democrats is to eliminate filibustering.
The Democrats’ argument for expanding the Supreme Court is that, under the Trump administration, 3 conservative-leaning justices were sworn in. Which tipped the balance to conservatism within the Supreme Court. The last of these, was Judge Amy Coney Barrett, in the final months of the Trump administration.
Barrett’s confirmation was criticized by Democrats and progressives, who attacked, often unfoundedly, the judge’s ability and track record.
Democrats also criticized Republicans for confirming Barrett in an election year, since, during the Obama Administration, an attempt was made to appoint Merrick Garland and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), then Majority Leader, refused to consider him because it was an election year.
Being a judge appointed by a Republican president does not mean being loyal to the GOP
While some Democrats say that the Supreme Court is currently ideologically biased favoring Republicans, the reality is that judges, once already in office, are not swayed by partisanship or tend to favor the party lines of those who nominated them. For example, Chief Justice John Roberts and former President Trump appointees Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch sometimes took liberal positions and decisions on the court.
One who explains it well is Justice Stephen Breyer, who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton to be an associate to the Supreme Court in 1994: “o make those whose initial instincts may favor important structural change, or other similar institutional changes, such as forms of court packing, think long and hard before they embody those changes in law,” Justice Breyer said in a cautionary tone to Harvard University students and alumni in a speech last week.
“If the public sees judges as politicians in robes, its confidence in the courts and in the rule of law can only diminish, diminishing the court’s power, including its power to act as a check on other branches. My experience of more than 30 years… as a judge has shown me that once men and women take the judicial oath they take that oath to heart. They are loyal to the rule of law, not to the political party that helped to secure their appointment,” Mr. Breyer explained.
Republicans oppose bill to expand the Supreme Court
After the Democrats’ plan to expand the Supreme Court became known, Republicans were quick to make their position clear.
“Democrats are launching a full assault on the independence of the federal judiciary. Republicans will stop them,” said Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO).
“Packing the court goes against everything we believe as Americans. But make no mistake: this is about power and control. Democrats want to dismantle our institutions, including the courts, to enact their socialist agenda,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
Utah Senator Mike Lee also commented on his Twitter account that “Packing the court is an act of arrogant lawlessness. Those behind this effort spit in the face of judicial independence.”
Statements are still expected from several political personalities such as Senator Mitch McConnell. Also awaiting final positions are moderate Democratic Representatives and Senators Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Jared Golden (D-Maine) and Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.).
Perhaps, the most anticipated pronouncement is that of President Joe Biden, who in 2019 was reluctant to the idea of expanding the Supreme Court but who, months ago, commented that he had no definite position in a radical shift in his stance.
This month, Biden created a commission, without decision-making power, to study in depth the consequences of reforming the high court and expanding the Supreme Court.