(WASHINGTON) — Some House and Senate Democrats are ramping up the political battle over the Supreme Court, introducing a bill Thursday to expand the court from 9 to 13 seats, a move many Republicans have rejected as dangerous “court packing.”
The Judiciary Act of 2021 is co-sponsored by Democratic lawmakers, including House Judiciary Chairman Jerrod Nadler, D-N.Y., Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Reps. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y.
The bill would “restore balance to the nation’s highest court after four years of norm-breaking actions by Republicans led to its current composition,” Nadler said in a statement.
Democrats are still angry that President Barack Obama’s court nominee, Merrick Garland, was blocked by Senate Republicans for nearly a year and never given a hearing, as well as the rushed confirmation of President Donald Trump’s nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, just before last November’s election.
“Republicans stole the Court’s majority, with Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation completing their crime spree,” Markey said in a statement. “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.”
Nadler argued that given the fact that there are now 13 federal appeals courts, it is logical to have 13 justices to oversee the corresponding circuits, as was the previous tradition.
Republicans have already taken issue with the bill, with Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., saying it will “destroy the court” in a tweet Wednesday night.
“The Democrats will do anything for power,” Cotton said.
Even President Joe Biden has previously said that court packing is a, “bone-head idea,” and a “terrible, terrible mistake, “
While Congress has the power to change the makeup of the court, in order to pass the bill they propose, as even Democrats concede, they would have to abolish the filibuster, a complex Senate rule that requires 60 votes to move forward on most legislation. That is unlikely as moderate Democrats like Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have said they would not support ending the filibuster.
Biden, under pressure from progressive Democrats, last week announced a commission to study the expansion of the court — signing an executive order creating a 36-member bipartisan panel to report back within six months on increasing the number of justices and potential term limits.
Demand Justice, a key progressive group pushing to expand the court, strongly backed the Democrats’ bill.
“This bill marks a new era where Democrats finally stop conceding the Supreme Court to Republicans. Progressives understand we cannot afford to wait six months for an academic study to tell us what we already know: the Supreme Court is broken and in need of reform,” Demand Justice Executive Director Brian Fallon said in a statement.
“Our task now is to build a grassroots movement that puts pressure on every Democrat in Congress to support this legislation because it is the only way to restore balance to the Court and protect our democracy,” Fallon said.
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