House

Pelosi says she won’t bring bill to expand Supreme Court to the floor

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday she has “no plans” to bring a Democratic-led bill to expand the Supreme Court to the House floor for a vote, while saying such an idea is “not out of the question.”

Pelosi was asked during a press briefing if she supported a bill brought forward by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) to expand the Supreme Court by four seats and if she would bring it to the House floor.

“No. I support the president’s commission to study such a proposal, but frankly I’m not — right now, we’re back, our members, our committees are working. We’re putting together the infrastructure bill and the rest,” Pelosi said.

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea or a bad idea. 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,” she continued.

Pelosi added of expanding the court: “It’s not out of the question. It has been done before in 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.”

Democrats on Thursday introduced a bill from Nadler, Sen. Ed Markey (Mass.), and Reps. Hank Johnson (Ga.) and Mondaire Jones (N.Y.) that would enlarge the Supreme Court from nine seats to 13, a move the lawmakers said would restore balance to a court that currently holds a 6-3 conservative majority.

“We are here today because the United States Supreme Court is broken, it is out of balance and it needs to be fixed. Too many Americans view our highest court in the land as a partisan, political institution, not our impartial judicial branch of government,” Markey said at a press conference.

The bill comes about a week after President Biden signed an executive order forming a commission to look into the possibility of adding more seats to the Supreme Court.

“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 last week.

“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.”

Biden has so far not stated whether he would support expanding the Supreme Court. Debate over adding more seats has grown since the expedited nomination and confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

During an interview on “60 Minutes” last year, Biden said he was “not a fan” of the idea, though he did add at the time that his administration would study Supreme Court reform beyond expansion.

“It’s not about court packing,” Biden said during the interview. “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.”

Justice Stephen Breyer, one of three liberal Supreme Court justices remaining, said in a prepared speech at Harvard Law School that expanding the court would damage its influence and make it seem more political.

The justice said that the Supreme Court’s authority depends on “a trust that the court is guided by legal principle, not politics.”

Expanding the Supreme Court and nominating a slew of liberal justices would dilute the current super-majority of conservative justices that currently sit on the bench.

The size of the Supreme Court has previously gone as low as five justices before being expanded and settling at nine in 1869.

—Updated at 1:20 p.m.

Tags Amy Coney Barrett Court packing Ed Markey expanding the Supreme Court Hank Johnson Jerry Nadler Joe Biden Nancy Pelosi Stephen Breyer Supreme Court

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