Liberal push to expand Supreme Court is all but dead among Hill Dems

This trio faces re-election in 2022, which is why their opinion is particularly important to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). But when Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) Formally pushes for Supreme Court expansion and the popular progressive cause reappears in response to the GOP’s relentless urge to fill court seats during the Trump years, it is clear that few of Markey’s colleagues agree.

While liberal electoral reform measures, police bias, and Congressional ethics remain relatively popular with the 50-strong Senate majority, the expansion of the Supreme Court is nearly dead among the Chamber’s Democrats.

“This is in the category of things that didn’t get 50 votes and probably didn’t get 40 votes,” said Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). “We have a historic opportunity here to make changes and we should focus on those issues where we can get a majority.”

Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said adding seats is an issue the media and Republicans love to talk about, but which isn’t an issue in the Senate. “Someone introduced a bill,” he said. “We are concentrating on Covid and infrastructure.”

The idea of ​​expanding the Supreme Court became a liberal occasion after Republicans confirmed three Supreme Court justices during the tenure of former President Donald Trump. Marky’s proposal, tabled with representatives Jerry Nadler (DN.Y.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) And Mondaire Jones (DN.Y.), would increase the number of judges from 9 to 13. The Number of Supreme Courts Judges have changed seven times in US history, from five to ten, but have stayed at nine since the late 19th century.

With a 6-3 Conservative Supreme Court majority ready to sway decisions for a generation, progressives are saying now is the time to act. They bet that the pressure on Democratic lawmakers will increase as the court makes more decisions that are unpopular with the party’s grassroots.

“The momentum for these efforts will increase. Especially when the court drifts dramatically in a direction that overturns one progressive precedent after the other, ”said Markey in an interview.

Spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Said she had no plans to speak the law to expand the Supreme Court, and prospects in the Senate were just as bad. However, the growth or other reform of the Supreme Court became a litmus test for the left during the Democratic president’s primaries last year. Although Biden never endorsed the idea, several candidates said they were open to it, including current Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

And while the proposal has no effect in today’s Democratic Congress, Senate Republicans are hoping voters will remember how popular the expansion of the court was among Democratic presidential candidates in 2020. The GOP is seizing Markey’s move in the run-up to mid-term 2022 as a means to pressure Democratic incumbents and challengers.

“I think it’s a big problem,” said Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate Republican fundraising arm. “I can tell you that we are doing our job at the NRSC, and it’s been resonating. The public doesn’t like it. Republicans and Democrats, neither of them like it. ”

McConnell has criticized Biden’s recent move to create a commission focused on judicial reform and recently reiterated that adding seats to the Supreme Court would “destroy its legitimacy”. The Kentucky Republican urged “officials across the political spectrum” to denounce the idea. Republicans also tried to pin the Democrats on the matter in February when Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) Attempted to create a new procedural tool that can be used against future bills adding seats to the Supreme Court. (Every Democrat was against Cotton’s plan.)

But Democrats aren’t exactly sweating over the GOP’s attempt to arm the court’s enlargement, especially given that Biden’s bipartisan judicial commission isn’t coming to a conclusion anytime soon. The 36-person commission announced earlier this month followed Biden’s election promise to consider judicial reform following the death of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.), “Not convinced” of the court packaging, said Republicans would “grab” the “court expansion” because they did not want to talk about infrastructure. “

Even as Markey-led legislation wears off, the composition of the federal judiciary is well on its way to becoming a mainstream political issue. Democrats have still not forgotten the 2016 decision by then Senate Majority Leader McConnell to block ex-President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court candidate Merrick Garland citing divided administration in a presidential election year. Garland is now Biden’s attorney general.

That’s on top of the Senate’s memorably brutal battle for Supreme Court confirmation, Brett Kavanaugh, in 2018.

During Trump’s tenure, Senate Republicans confirmed more than 200 judges on the Bundesbank, and Democrats are eager to catch up now that they are in control of Washington. While Biden likely doesn’t have as many vacancies as Trump, the Senate will begin hearings this week to confirm its judicial candidates.

And the Supreme Court is never far from the legislature. Given that Senate Democrats have a fragile 50 majority and Stephen Breyer, one of three Liberal judges, has been the oldest member of the Supreme Court for a decade, the 82-year-old is under liberal pressure to retire. The progressive groups pressuring Breyer want to avoid what happened to Ginsburg, a liberal judiciary that died when the Republicans had the Senate and the White House.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Biden’s election to replace Garland on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, is widely viewed as a potential future Supreme Court candidate.

While Senate Democrats say they are waiting for Biden’s commission to issue a recommendation on judicial reform, few people expect that body to endorse the enlargement of the court. Ginsburg opposed what is known as court wrapping, and Breyer recently warned that adding seating would only increase public distrust of the institution. Former Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he had no problem with the Biden Commission but urged Democrats “very, very cautiously to say that we need to expand the Supreme Court”.

“The expansion of the Supreme Court must be viewed with great caution,” repeated Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “I would be surprised if the Commission recommended this. The Commission seems like a good way of taking both sides into account My own position is to wait for what the Commission recommends. “

Others warned that adding seats could open the door to further politicization of the court. “I’m skeptical because I don’t know where it ends,” said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who is negotiating with Democrats. “You could end up with a 100-member Supreme Court that changes every four years.”

Despite opposition from many Senate Democrats, progressive groups argue that the mere introduction of a law to deal with the issue is a sign of the dynamism of court enlargement.

“Just as filibuster reform was not a mainstream position within the democratic caucus a year ago, adding seats to the Supreme Court to preserve our democracy is an idea that has a growing grassroots constituency,” said Chris Kang, chief attorney of the Liberal Group Demand Justice, led by a former Schumer aide.

“We’re organizing a movement that will push this idea forward until we have the support we need.”

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