Congressional Progressive Caucus backs measure to expand Supreme Court

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The Congressional Progressive Caucus on Wednesday endorsed a bill expanding the Supreme Court, reinvigorating the push for a larger bench after the effort fizzled last summer.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said the Democratic coalition believes the “urgent work to restore American democracy” must involve expanding the Supreme Court.

The bill, dubbed the Judiciary Act of 2021, would expand the Supreme Court from nine seats to 13. Proponents believe the legislation would restore balance to the court, which currently has a 6-3 conservative majority.

Jayapal said the sitting bench was “filled by a partisan, right-wing effort to entrench a radical, anti-democratic faction and erode human rights that have been won over decades.” 

Conservative Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett were all elevated to the bench by former President Trump. 

“In recent years, this court has gutted the Voting Rights Act and public sector unions, entrenched unconstitutional abortion bans, and failed to overturn the blatantly discriminatory Muslim Ban,” Jayapal said in a statement, referring to Trump’s travel ban on several Muslim majority countries. 

“As a co-equal governing body, Congress cannot sit by while this attack on the constitution continues unchecked. I am proud that our Caucus is joining the fight to expand the court and restore balance to the bench,” she added.

House Democrats introduced the Judiciary Act of 2021 in April. The composition of the Supreme Court has been a prime focus of Democrats for years, particularly after Senate Republicans blocked then-President Obama from filling the seat held by the late Justice Antonin Scalia because it was an election year.

Frustrations deepened in 2020 when Republicans raced to nominate a successor to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat. Republicans at the time argued that they could fill the seat despite it being an election year because the White House and Senate were controlled by the same party.

The effort to expand the court, however, started to lose steam over the summer after a presidential commission tasked with reviewing the proposal held its first public hearing. Remarks from the panel of experts showed the lack of academic agreement when it comes to whether to and how to reform the bench.

In October, the bipartisan commission said there are “considerable” risks to growing the number of justices who sit on the Supreme Court, including potentially undermining the legitimacy of the court.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) voiced her support for expanding the Supreme Court last month, writing in an op-ed that she is in favor of increasing the number of justices by at least four.

“I don’t come to this conclusion lightly or because I disagree with a particular decision; I come to this conclusion because I believe the current court threatens the democratic foundations of our nation,” Warren wrote.

Demand Justice, a progressive group pushing for an expansion of the Supreme Court, hailed the caucus’s endorsement, calling the effort “the only way to restore balance to the Supreme Court.”

“The Congressional Progressive Caucus has been on the cutting edge of fighting for the bold action needed to protect democracy and create an economy that works for everyone, and with this endorsement, the CPC is giving a major boost to the only reform bold enough to rebalance a Supreme Court that currently threatens any progress on issues progressives care about,” Brian Fallon, the executive director of the group, said in a statement.

Tags Amy Coney Barrett Barack Obama Brett Kavanaugh Congressional Progressive Caucus Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Neil Gorsuch Pramila Jayapal Ruth Bader Ginsburg Supreme Court expansion

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