A group of Democratic lawmakers reintroduced a bill on Tuesday aiming to increase the number of liberal seats on the Supreme Court by four. The initiative follows recent controversies surrounding the financial disclosures of justices and the court’s Dobbs abortion ruling, deepening Democrats’ dissatisfaction with the conservative majority.
At a press conference in front of the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Democratic senators argued that they needed to pack the nation’s highest court with liberal justices.
“When a bully steals your lunch money in the schoolyard, you have to do something about it, or else the bully will come back over and over again. So we’re in this fight, and we’re going to reclaim these seats. We’re not going to allow the bully to win,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said.
“We don’t have the luxury of waiting to see if the court will issue radical partisan rulings that shift the foundations of freedom under our feet,” he added. “We now know it will happen.”
Joining Markey and Johnson at the press conference were Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), and Representative Cori Bush (D-Mo.).
Markey and other Democrats had previously introduced similar legislation approximately two years ago, proposing a 13-justice Supreme Court with one seat for each of the nation’s appeals courts.
The renewed effort comes in response to the court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, as well as other pivotal cases that have tilted the court towards a conservative ideology. Republicans have criticized the Democrats’ move, characterizing it as an attempt to weaponize the court.
The lawmakers’ push is also influenced by a ProPublica investigation, which revealed undisclosed luxury trips accepted by Justice Clarence Thomas from GOP megadonor Harlan Crow. Thomas defended the trips, asserting they fell under a personal hospitality exception governed by federal ethics laws.
Representative Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) expressed concern about the current 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court, describing it as a threat to democracy and the environment.
“Today, a 6-3, far-right supermajority on the United States Supreme Court threatens our rights, our democracy, and our planet. To restore our democracy, we must expand the United States Supreme Court, and we must do so now. Republicans captured the court against the will of most Americans,” said Johnson.
“By expanding the court we can restore balance to the court, repair the damage done by these extreme right-wing partisan groups that do not represent the citizens of this country, and we can protect our democracy,” he added.
The Democratic Congressional members were joined by leaders from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro Choice America.
“The moment is calling for us to realize that this is necessary that we have fairness, that we have balance in our Supreme Court,” Jacqueline Ayers, Planned Parenthood’s vice president of policy, campaigns and advocacy, said at the time.
“To have Planned Parenthood and NARAL stand here today and say part of the response to the Dobbs ruling needs to be structural reform of the Supreme Court is a game changer. I think it will have a huge ripple effect in terms of building more support,” added Brian Fallon, the executive director of the progressive group Demand Justice.
There are currently 6 justices appointed by Republicans, including three from former President Trump, while there are 3 Democrat-appointed justices on the court after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
The U.S. Constitution does not stipulate how many Supreme Court Justices should serve on the court; but there have been nine justices since 1889. Before 1889, Congress often changed the number of Supreme Court Justices to achieve partisan objectives. There were five SCOTUS justices under former President John Adams and as many as 10 justices under former President Abraham Lincoln.
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin (D) and Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema (I) have stated their opposition to court-packing. The reintroduced legislation would likely face staunch opposition in the Senate.
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