First a Commission, Then a Bill? Democrats Produce Plan to Pack the Supreme Court
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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Constitution leaves the number of justices on the Supreme Court up to Congress and some Democrats say it's time to add more judges to the bench.
Standing in front of the Supreme Court Thursday, congressional Democrats introduced the Judiciary Act of 2021. They say the court's standing is damaged because President Trump and Senate Republicans added three new justices and they want to recalibrate the balance of power.
"And the way we repair it is straightforward. We undo the damage that Republicans have done by restoring balance and we do it by adding four seats to create a 13 member Supreme Court," Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass) explained.
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Four new seats would be filled by President Joe Biden.
"Some people will say we're packing the court but we're not packing it. We're unpacking it. Senator McConnell and Republicans packed the court over the last couple of years," says U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) who chairs the House Judiciary Committee.
Liberal activists have pushed for the idea, but not all Democrats are on board.
"I think if you try to expand it right now that's going to further polarize and tear apart this country," U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) said during an interview on Fox News Radio.
Packing the court was a big issue during the election and last week President Biden set up a commission to look at possible court reforms.
"One of the issues they'll look at is, of course, the size of the court but they'll also look at the court's role in the constitutional system, the length of service, turnover of justices," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Thursday.
For now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says she's not bringing the bill to the House floor.
"I don't know if that's a good idea or a bad idea. 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. It's a big step," Pelosi explained to reporters during her weekly press conference.
"She clearly doesn't have the votes," said CBN News Chief Political Analyst David Brody.
"She's a good vote counter, she does not have the votes on the house floor. She doesn't have those moderate Democrats to go along, but if you have the commission that she supports and you go with that first. You get the commission results, then the bill. I think that's the trick for Democrats of how they're going try to do this," Brody continues.
Republicans say this push for court-packing is another example of Democrats wanting to change the rules when they don't get their way.
"Now, if Republicans had introduced a bill to add four Supreme Court seats for the last president to fill there would have been weeks of wall-to-wall outrage on every newspaper and cable TV channel," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaking on the Senate floor.
The President famously didn't take a position on the issue during the campaign, but he did tell a reporter, "I'm not a fan of court-packing."
The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a liberal icon, was also against it. In 2019 she told NPR "nine seems to be a good number."
"Well, if anything would make the court appear partisan it would be that - one side saying 'when we're in power we're going to enlarge the number of judges who will vote the way we want them to,'" Justice Ginsberg continued.
In a speech last week, Justice Stephen Breyer, who was appointed by President Clinton, spoke against court-packing saying, "think long and hard before embodying those changes in law.'
It's not popular with Americans. A New York Times poll conducted last fall, just as the debate over Justice Amy Coney Barrett's nomination was dominating the headlines, found 58- percent oppose packing the court.
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