Democrats to offer bill to expand Supreme Court

A group of Democrats on Thursday will introduce a bill to expand the Supreme Court as progressives push the White House to advocate for an expansion.

Rep. Jerry Nadler (N.Y.), the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Reps. Mondaire Jones (N.Y.) and Hank Johnson (Ga.) and Sen. Ed Markey (Mass.) will hold a press conference Thursday morning unveiling legislation they say will boost the size of the Supreme Court from nine seats to 13. 

Jones’s office said in a statement that the bill would “restore balance to the Supreme Court as part of critically necessary democracy reform.” 

The move comes less than a week after President Biden signed an executive order forming a commission to study the possibility of adding seats to the court, among other reforms.

“The Commission’s purpose is to provide an analysis of the principal arguments in the contemporary public debate for and against Supreme Court reform, including an appraisal of the merits and legality of particular reform proposals,” the White House said in a release. “The topics it will examine include the genesis of the reform debate; the Court’s role in the Constitutional system; the length of service and turnover of justices on the Court; the membership and size of the Court; and the Court’s case selection, rules, and practices.”

The 36-member commission will hold public meetings to hear from experts and interested parties and will have 180 days to complete a report on the issue.

Progressives offered mix reviews of Biden’s commission, saying it was a step in their direction but noting the members’ elite backgrounds.

“Americans will rightly be skeptical of a commission composed almost entirely of people protected from the real-life consequences of the Supreme Court’s right-wing extremism,” Jones said in a statement. “Nevertheless, I remain hopeful that the commission will join our rising movement for Court expansion.”

Progressives have clamored for Biden to work to expand the court in an attempt to minimize the current conservative majority’s power. Liberals were infuriated when Senate Republicans denied then-President Obama the ability to fill a vacancy in early 2016 on the premise that a seat should not be filled in an election year only to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in October 2020, just days before the election.

“This bill marks a new era where Democrats finally stop conceding the Supreme Court to Republicans. Progressives understand we cannot afford to wait six months for an academic study to tell us what we already know: the Supreme Court is broken and in need of reform. Our task now is to build a grassroots movement that puts pressure on every Democrat in Congress to support this legislation because it is the only way to restore balance to the Court and protect our democracy,” Brian Fallon, head of the progressive group Demand Justice, said of the bill to be introduced Thursday.

Beyond expanding the court, activists have proposed a slew of other adjustments, including implementing 18-year term limits for justices, who after their time is up could then serve on lower federal courts.

Biden said in October that he was “not a fan” of expanding the Supreme Court while opening the door to other reforms.

“It’s not about court packing,” Biden said last year. “There’s a number of other things that our constitutional scholars have debated and I’ve looked to see what recommendations that commission might make.”

Tags Biden Ed Markey Hank Johnson Jerry Nadler Joe Biden Mondaire Jones Ruth Bader Ginsburg Supreme Court Supreme Court of the United States

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