Democrats unveil plan to pack Supreme Court with 13 justices

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Democrats unveil plan to pack Supreme Court with 13 justices

Democratic politicians on Thursday unveiled their plans to expand the US Supreme Court from the current nine justices to 13 — a pr

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Democratic politicians on Thursday unveiled their plans to expand the US Supreme Court from the current nine justices to 13 — a proposal that has been roundly criticized as “court packing” to meet political needs.

“We are here today because the United State Supreme Court is broken,” said Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey at a press conference on the steps of the nation’s highest court in Washington, DC. “It is out of balance and it needs to be fixed.

“I’m disappointed to say that too many Americans question the court’s legitimacy. The consequence is the rights of all Americans but especially people of color, women and our immigrant communities are at risk.”

Markey, who is co-sponsoring the bill, the Judiciary Act of 2021, with New York Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Mondaire Jones and Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia, accused Republicans of stealing seats on the coveted court. 

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) is also backing the measure.
AP

“Republicans have purposely warped and weaponized the highest court of the land for their own partisan gain,” he said. “Republicans seem to think that equal justice means justice for their purposes, their values, their causes. That is not equal justice. That is not the sacred duty of the Supreme Court.”

Nadler, meanwhile, said a panel of 13 justices would mean one for each of the country’s 13 circuit Courts of Appeals — and noted that the size of the court has changed seven times in the course of history.

“Nine justices may have made sense in the 19th century when there were only nine circuits,” Nadler said. “But the logic behind only having nine justices is much weaker today.”

The move comes as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi flatly said she would not support the bill, which is staunchly opposed by Republicans and legal purists.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA)
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) called the Supreme Court “broken.”
Getty Images

“I don’t know that that’s a good idea or bad idea. I think it’s an idea that to be considered. And I think the president’s taking the right approach to, to have a commission to study such a thing,” the top-ranking House Democrat said, calling President Biden’s move itself “a big step.”

“It’s not out of the question, it has been done before,” she went on to say, noting that “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, etc. might necessitate such a thing.”

As for now, however, Pelosi is only backing the commission.

“I have no plans to bring it to the floor,” she said.

Asked about Pelosi’s reaction, Nadler said he expects she and other critics will eventually come around. 

“Speaker Pelosi is a very good judge of events and of history and I believe as events unfold and the court comes down with decisions destructive to a woman’s right to choose, comes down with decisions destructive to climate … I believe Speaker Pelosi and others will come along,” Nadler said.

Supreme Court
Conservatives currently hold the majority on the bench after the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
AFP via Getty Images

The proposal is also opposed by New York Rep. Tom Suozzi, a Democrat from Long Island.

“This is a system that has worked well for a long time. Changing it based on party control is not a good practice,” the moderate told The Post.

Conservatives currently hold the majority on the bench — tipping the balance of the vote to 6-3 — after President Donald Trump’s appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal icon. 

Trump appointees Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch also sit on the court.

President Biden
President Biden signed an executive order creating a commission that would study the “pros and cons” of expanding the court.
POOL/CNP/startraksphoto.com

Congress altered the number of justices on the court several times over the 19th century, from a low of five to a high of 10. The number was fixed at nine shortly after the Civil War.

In the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt unsuccessfully sought to expand the court after conservative justices ruled against some of his New Deal policies.

Additional reporting by Carl Campanile

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