Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) revealed that she will not support her party’s of Court packing.
A group of progressive Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill that aims to expand the U.S. Supreme Court, also known as Court packing. The idea, in a nutshell, is to expand the seats on the highest judicial authority from 9 to 13 with the intention of combating the politicization of the Court which now has a conservative ideological bent.
Speaker Pelosi was clear that she is not in favor of expanding the Supreme Court at this time and that she will instead support the commission created by President Biden last week to study and analyze the consequences of a SCOTUS expansion.
“I support the president’s commission to study such a proposal, but frankly I’m not… Right now, we’re back. Our members, our committees are working. We’re putting together the infrastructure bill and the rest. I don’t know that’s a good idea or bad idea. I think it’s an idea that should be considered. And I think the president is taking the right approach to have a commission to study such a thing. It’s a big step. It’s not out of the question,” Pelosi said.
“It has been done before in the history of our country, a long time ago. And the growth of our country, the size of our country, the growth of our challenges in terms of the economy, et cetera, might necessitate such a thing. But in answer to your question, I have no plans to bring it to the floor, no,” the Speaker of the House added.
— The Hill (@thehill) April 15, 2021
The Speaker’s words are emphatic: she agrees with the premise of Court packing, but not under these conditions. For Pelosi, Democrats should be focused on the infrastructure bill, not on the SCOTUS expansion for which Democrats would first have to pass the bill in the House and then get 60 votes in the Senate, which they do not have.
Another option for progressive Democrats seeking to push for Court packing is to get the filibuster abolished. That would also be a challenge.
Who supports the progressives’ Court packing push?
The Democratic lawmakers heading the initiative are Jerry Nadler (D-NY), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Hank Johnson of Georgia (D-GA), Mondaire Jones (D-NY), and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA).
“”Nine justices may have made sense in the nineteenth century when there were only nine circuits, only a few hundred appeals were filed before the Court every year, and so many of our most important laws—covering everything from civil rights, to antitrust, the internet, financial regulation, health care, immigration, and white collar crime—simply did not exist, and did not require adjudication by the Supreme Court,” said Chairman Nadler in a statement on Thursday. “But the logic behind having only nine justices is much weaker today, when there are 13 circuits. Thirteen justices for thirteen circuits is a sensible progression, and I am pleased to join my colleagues in introducing the Judiciary Act of 2021.”
Senator Markey, on the other hand, said that expanding the Supreme Court is necessary to fight its “politicization”: “Republicans stole the Court’s majority, with Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation completing their crime spree,” said Markey.
“Of all the damage Donald Trump did to our Constitution, this stands as one of his greatest travesties. Senate Republicans have politicized the Supreme Court, undermined its legitimacy, and threatened the rights of millions of Americans, especially people of color, women, and our immigrant communities. This legislation will restore the Court’s balance and public standing and begin to repair the damage done to our judiciary and democracy, and we should abolish the filibuster to ensure we can pass it. I thank Chairman Nadler, and Reps. Johnson and Jones for their partnership on this legislation that will ensure the Supreme Court reflects the value of equal justice under law, not politics.” he added.
Markey’s words differ from those of Justice Stephen Breyer, who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton to the Supreme Court in 1994.
“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,” Justice Breyer said during a speech to Harvard University students and alumni last week.