Nancy Pelosi effectively killed an upcoming Democrat proposal to expand the Supreme Court by four seats by saying Thursday she would not bring the bill to the House floor.
The bid from a group of Democratic lawmakers would change the number of justices for the first time in 160 years and wipe out the conservative majority built under Donald Trump.
‘Do you support Jerry Nadler’s bill to expand the Supreme Court by 4 seats and would you commit to bringing that bill to the floor,’ a reporter asked the House Speaker at a press conference on Thursday.
‘No,’ she said.
The California Democrat instead says she backs President Joe Biden launching a commission to look at expanding the Supreme Court Justice count.
‘I support the president’s commission to study such a proposal,’ Pelosi added. ‘But, frankly, I’m not – right now, we’re back, our members – committees are working putting together the infrastructure bill and the rest.’
‘I don’t know that that’s a good idea or a bad idea,’ she said. ‘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. It’s not out of the question, it’s been done before in the history of our country.’
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, along with the other co-sponsors of the bill, unveiled a new ‘court packing’ proposal that would expand the number of justices on the Supreme Court from 9 to 13.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin expressed Thursday he would not sign on to the idea yet.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other senior Democrats effectively killed their own party’s proposal to expand the Supreme Court by four seats before House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler’s announcement of the bill
Senator Ed Markey (left) and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (right) unveiled a new bill Thursday, April 15 in front of the Capitol that would expand the Supreme Court from nine to 13 seats despite fellow Democratic leadership claiming they would back the proposal
Durbin told reporters at the Capitol: ‘I just heard about [the proposal]. I’m not ready to sign on yet. I think this commission of Biden is the right move. Let’s think this through carefully. This is historic.’
‘I’m concerned both by the current situation, which I believe was influenced by the McConnell decision to keep that vacancy open until Trump could fill it,’ Durbin said when asked about critics’ claims of court packing.
‘I want to make sure that our response to that is reasonable,’ he said.
‘So you haven’t decided yet if you’ll bring it up for a vote in committee?’ a reporter pushed.
‘Not yet,’ Durbin said. ‘This is the earliest stage of the conversation. I really want to see what the commission proposes.’
Republicans have condemned proposals to increase the number of Supreme Court justices from nine to 13.
Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse said in a statement to National Review on Thursday: ‘Here are some facts: The Supreme Court isn’t supposed to be America’s super-legislature.’
‘Democrats don’t have some historic mandate in a 50-50 Senate to nuke the Court; the progressive activists who wrote this bill are high on their own supply; and a whole bunch of sane Democrats are quietly praying this thing dies,’ he continued.
‘The court-packing bill is delusional,’ Sasse said.
Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas tweeted: ‘Packing the Supreme Court would destroy the Supreme Court. The Democrats will do anything for power.’
Donald Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said increasing the size of the court was a terrible idea.
‘The moderate left is gone,’ he said.
‘This is who they are now. Open borders. Outlawing voter ID. Free healthcare for illegal migrants. And now court packing.
‘This should be roundly rejected.’
Biden established a 36-member commission earlier this month to look into ‘court packing’ in a move at getting more liberal justices onto the Supreme Court bench and dismantling the 6-3 conservative majority.
The president’s moved has been called a ‘power grab’, a ‘move by the radical left when they can’t get what they want’ and an attack on the Constitution by furious Republicans.
The announcement of the commission follows months of debate over whether Democrats should seek to expand the court beyond nine justices – a number that hasn’t changed since Abraham Lincoln was president.
During Trump’s presidency, he was able to expand the conservative majority by bringing in Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett.
The announcement came as progressive groups launched a campaign demanding Justice Stephen Breyer resign for saying there shouldn’t be more justices on the bench.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (front, second from right) opposed increasing the number of justices
THE SUPREME COURT, ARTICLE III OF THE CONSTITUTION AND ITS HISTORY
The Supreme Court was established in 1789 by Article Three of the Constitution. President George Washington then signed the Judiciary Act which specified that the court would initially be made up of six justices who would serve until they died or retired.
For the next 80 years, until 1869, Congress altered the number of justices six times from a low of five to a high of 10. But there have been nine serving justices for the last 160 years.
Congress does have the power to change the number of justices, and the Democrats could pass it with slim majorities in both the House and Senate.
Any effort to alter it would be explosive and would attract furious support from both sides of the aisle.
Imposing term limits would likely require a constitutional amendment, though some scholars have proposed ways to accomplish it by statute.
The constitution doesn’t explicitly grant ‘life tenure’, but it is implied from the phrase that they shall ‘hold their offices during good behaviour’.
Democrats have tried to unravel the Supreme Court’s historic traditions with the argument that justice are now serving an average of 28 around years, the longest in history.
In 2020, California Democrat Rep. Ro Khanna introduced a proposal that would establish 18-year limits for Supreme Court Justices, but the bill never materialized.
‘We can’t face a national crisis every time a vacancy occurs on the Supreme Court,’ said Rep. Khanna. ‘No justice should feel the weight of an entire country on their shoulders. No president should be able to shift the ideology of our highest judicial body by mere chance. Most importantly, our country’s top constitutional questions shouldn’t be decided by a panel of jurists who are biding their time until a president of their choice is elected. It’s time to standardize and democratize the Supreme Court.’
Over the last 44 years, Republicans have held the presidency for 24 years and appointed 15 justices. Donald Trump appointed three relatively young conservatives: Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.
Democrats have held the presidency for 20 years and appointed only four justices.
As of January 2021, 115 justices have served on the court..
Regardless of any recommendations given by the White House commission, changing the number of justices would require congressional approval.
Durbin’s proposal, first reported reported by The Intercept, was always likely to spark strong protest from Republicans, who warned during the election that Joe Biden would try and change the court’s composition.
‘Who agrees that we should expand the Supreme Court?’ tweeted Ed Markey of Massachusetts, the sponsor of the bill in the Senate.
Mondaire Jones, who is sponsoring the bill through the House, tweeted: ‘Our democracy is under assault, and the Supreme Court has dealt the sharpest blows. To restore power to the people, we must #ExpandTheCourt.’
He added: ‘Supreme Court expansion is infrastructure.’
The new plan is being promoted in the House by the Judiciary Committee Chairman, Jerry Nadler. He is backed by Subcommittee chair Hank Johnson, and freshman Jones.
In the Senate, the bill is being championed by Markey.
Changing the composition of the court requires a Senate sponsor, and congressional approval.
The number of justices on the Supreme Court is not specified by the Constitution.
Until 1869, the number regularly fluctuated depending on which political party was in power, and their aims.
Under John Adams there were five: under Abraham Lincoln there were 10.
Biden himself refused to say before the election what his position was. In 1995 described efforts to expand the Supreme Court as ‘boneheaded’.
But, under pressure from progressives within his party, he said last week that he was forming a special commission to investigate the issue.
The formation of a 36-member commission was announced by the White House on April 9.
Biden’s move was called a ‘power grab’, and a ‘move by the radical left when they can’t get what they want’.
Jerry Nadler (left) and Mondaire Jones are leading the push to change the Court in the House
Hank Johnson (left) is also promoting the bill in the House, and Ed Markey in the Senate
Joe Biden established a presidential commission to examine expanding the Supreme Court
‘THIS IS A POWER GRAB’: GOP FURY AT ‘PACKING’ COMMISSION
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
Today’s announcement is a direct assault on our nation’s independent judiciary and yet another sign of the Far Left’s influence over the Biden Administration.
‘Rational observers know well there is nothing about the structure or operation of the judicial branch that requires ‘study.’ Constitutional scholars and the justices themselves have repeatedly affirmed the position of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: ‘nine seems to be a good number.’ Justice Breyer said just this week that ‘structural alteration’ like court packing would mean ‘eroding’ the public’s trust in the judiciary. And by overwhelming margins, the American people agree.
‘At the same time, more and more elected Democrats have made open disdain for judicial independence a key part of their political platforms. A sitting Senator has personally threatened certain justices should they rule against liberal interests. Multiple Senate Democrats signed a threatening brief suggesting the Court needed to either deliver liberal rulings or face being ‘restructured.’ The President spent most of his campaign playing coy on the issue, but has now admitted from the safety of a four-year term that he views the judiciary as ‘out of whack.’
‘So anyone who was surprised by the creation of a commission on packing the Supreme Court simply hasn’t been paying attention. This faux-academic study of a nonexistent problem fits squarely within liberals’ years-long campaign to politicize the Court, intimidate its members, and subvert its independence. This is not some new, serious, or sober pivot away from Democrats’ political attacks on the Court. It’s just an attempt to clothe those ongoing attacks in fake legitimacy. It’s disappointing that anyone, liberal or conservative, would lend credence to this attack by participating in the commission.
‘Of course, this is just another example of the liberal preference for attacking norms and institutions, rather than working within them. When Democrats lose a floor vote, it’s time to change Senate rules. When they lose a presidential election, it’s time to abolish the Electoral College. And when activists’ cases fall flat against the rule of law, it’s time to ignore Justices Ginsburg and Breyer and pack the Supreme Court.
‘President Biden campaigned on a promise of lowering the temperature and uniting a divided nation. If he really meant it, he would stop giving oxygen to a dangerous, antiquated idea and stand up to the partisans hawking it.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney
My Democrat friends decry the last president for weakening our institutions with his words and behavior but they now cheer the effort to pack the Supreme Court and end the Senate filibuster, which would forever diminish institutions at our Republic’s foundation.
Republican Senator Ben Sasse
‘This progressive court packing commission is going nowhere fast. President Biden knows that he doesn’t even have the votes in his own party to pack the court; he knows that court packing is a non-starter with the American people; and he knows that this commission’s report is just going to be a taxpayer-funded door stopper.
‘What the President doesn’t have his the courage to come out and flatly tell the radical left that he’s not going to pack the Supreme Court.’
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan
‘Why study something we already know? Democrats want to pack the Supreme Court.’
Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn
‘Joe Biden and the radical left will destroy our institutions to seize power. This means eradicating the electoral college and the filibuster and packing the Supreme Court ‘
Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher
‘We don’t need a commission to know that court packing is a radical idea that would destroy faith in the Supreme Court. Next week, I’ll be reintroducing a constitutional amendment that would prevent this from happening by capping the court at nine justices’
Former GOP South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley
‘Court packing is undemocratic, divisive, and brainless. Don’t take it from me, take it from Joe Biden who once called it a ‘bonehead idea.”
The move follows months of debate over whether Democrats should seek to expand the court beyond nine justices – a number that hasn’t changed since Abraham Lincoln was president.
Biden’s move would essentially wipe out the conservative 6-3 majority Trump brought in.
The six conservatives on the court are Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, appointed by Trump; Samuel Alito, appointed by George W. Bush; and Clarence Thomas and John Roberts, both appointed by George H.W. Bush.
Barack Obama appointed two liberals – Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The third liberal, Stephen Breyer, was appointed by Bill Clinton.
The announcement came as progressive groups launched a campaign demanding Breyer, 82, resign for saying there shouldn’t be more justices on the bench.
Some are also urging Breyer to consider retiring so that Biden can appoint another liberal to the bench.
Republicans, including their Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, and Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, say the steps are what the ‘radical left’ does when they don’t get their way.
McConnell added: ‘When they (Democrats) lose a presidential election, it’s time to abolish the Electoral College.
‘And when activists’ cases fall flat against the rule of law, it’s time to ignore Justices Ginsburg and Breyer and pack the Supreme Court.’
Even Biden has previous said bids to pack the court with more liberal judges were a ‘power grab’.
In 2005 he called it a ‘bonehead idea’.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last year, once said: ‘There are some people on the Democratic side who would like to increase the number of judges. I think that was a bad idea…if anything would make the court appear partisan.’
Biden’s executive order creates a commission composed of a bipartisan group of experts, including legal and judicial scholars, former administration officials and former federal judges, the White House said in a statement.
Biden’s commission will be led by Bob Bauer, who served as White House counsel for Obama, and Cristina Rodriguez, a Yale Law School professor who served as deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel under Obama.
Among the members are Michelle Adams, who was was recently in Netflix documentary ‘Amend: The Fight for America’ about the 14th Amendment, Guy-Uriel E. Charles, who writes about law’s role in addressing racial subordination, and constitutional law professor William Baude.
Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican representing Nebraska, said: ‘This progressive court packing commission is going nowhere fast.
‘President Biden knows that he doesn’t even have the votes in his own party to pack the court; he knows that court packing is a non-starter with the American people; and he knows that this commission’s report is just going to be a taxpayer-funded door stopper.
‘What the President doesn’t have his the courage to come out and flatly tell the radical left that he’s not going to pack the Supreme Court.’
Republican congressman Jim Jordan said bluntly: ‘Why study something we already know? Democrats want to pack the Supreme Court.’
Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee said: ‘Joe Biden and the radical left will destroy our institutions to seize power.
‘This means eradicating the electoral college and the filibuster and packing the Supreme Court.’
The Article 3 Project, a group that defends constitutionalist judges and ‘punches back on racial assaults on judicial independence’, said in a statement: ‘This is an alarming announcement from President Biden that should be met with the harshest of denunciations from both sides of the aisle.
‘Packing the Supreme Court would destroy centuries of hard work from Democrat- and Republican-appointed justices to insulate the high court from partisan politics. It also raises serious red flags as to what unconstitutional actions President Biden is planning that a more favorable Supreme Court might tolerate.
‘Just this week, Justice Breyer joined the late Justice Ginsburg in rejecting court packing. This isn’t a right versus left issue.
‘This is a matter of protecting the legitimacy of the Supreme Court and safeguarding our constitutional republic from irreversible damage.
‘We hope this commission is simply an empty gesture to the radical left.
‘But there is real danger in President Biden giving credibility to the idea of court packing; he is playing with fire and threatening the constitutional foundation of this country.
‘He should have the wisdom and enough self respect to recognize that any attempt to pack the Supreme Court would be rejected by Congress and would be an ugly stain on his legacy, just as it was for the last president who tried it.’
The Supreme Court building in Washington DC, seen on March 4 amid tight security
Even some on the left criticized the decision.
Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice, a liberal advocacy group that supports expanding the court and term limits for justices, said in a statement: ‘A commission made up mostly of academics, that includes far-right voices and is not tasked with making formal recommendations, is unlikely to meaningfully advance the ball on Court reform.’
But others seemed willing to give it a chance.
‘With five justices appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote, it’s crucial that we consider every option for wresting back political control of the Supreme Court,’ said Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, a liberal judicial advocacy group.
‘President Biden’s commission demonstrates a strong commitment to studying this situation and taking action.’