McConnell blasts Democrats over talk of court-packing

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPressure builds for coronavirus relief with no clear path to deal Top GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week Criminal justice groups offer support for Durbin amid fight for Judiciary spot MORE (R-Ky.) on Thursday knocked Democrats over their ongoing debate about expanding the Supreme Court to appoint more liberal justices, an idea backed by a growing number of 2020 presidential candidates. 

McConnell, speaking from the Senate floor, said adding seats to the high court is an "absurd notion" and accused Democrats of wanting to retaliate because they lost the 2016 White House race. 


"The idea that sometimes they lose elections and Republican presidents sometimes subsequently appoint Supreme Court justices is apparently no longer tolerated," McConnell said. 

He added that the "far left" was trying "rewrite the rules" to "stack the court." 

"So out of the ash heap of history came this talk of ‘court-packing.’ A notion that would threaten the rule of law and our American judicial system as we have long understood it. A radical proposal that has been dead and buried by bipartisan consensus for almost a century," McConnell added.

Once dismissed as a fringe idea, reforming the nation’s highest court is gaining traction with a growing number of Democratic 2020 candidates as progressive outside groups and high-profile officials, including former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderEx-AG Holder urges GOP to speak against Trump efforts to 'subvert' election results Tyson Foods suspends Iowa plant officials amid coronavirus scandal Money can't buy the Senate MORE, have vaulted the idea into the national spotlight.

Supporters argue that it's necessary since Republicans and Trump have confirmed two Supreme Court justices and a historic number of influential circuit court judges after refusing to take up former President Obama’s final Supreme Court nomination in 2016. Republicans nixed the 60-vote filibuster for Supreme Court picks in 2017 and have moved appeals judges over the objections of home-state senators. 

Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOn The Money: McConnell offering new coronavirus relief bill | Biden introduces economic team, vows swift action on relief | Rare Mnuchin-Powell spat takes center stage at COVID-19 hearing Biden introduces economic team, vows swift action on struggling economy Louisville mayor declares racism a public health crisis MORE (D-Mass.) and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisSenate GOP's campaign arm rakes in M as Georgia runoffs heat up Biden, Harris to sit with CNN's Tapper in first post-election joint interview The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Capital One — Giuliani denies discussing preemptive pardon with Trump MORE (D-Calif.) told Politico that the option should be on the table as part of a larger conversation among Democrats about the direction of the American judicial system. And Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Defense: Defense bill among Congress's year-end scramble | Iranian scientist's assassination adds hurdles to Biden's plan on nuclear deal | Navy scrapping USS Bonhomme Richard after fire Democratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Social media responds to Harris making history: 'I feel like our ancestors are rejoicing' MORE (D-N.Y.) told "Pod Save America" that the idea was “interesting” and she would “need to think more about it.”  

Republicans have seized on the fight as an example of Democrats shifting further to the left ahead of the 2020 election.

McConnell, on Thursday, urged Democratic senators to push back against talk of expanding the Supreme Court. 

"I hope my colleagues will have the courage to look at these far-left agitators in the eye and tell them that some traditions and some institutions are more important than partisan point scoring," McConnell said. "I have to say at this point that kind of courageous statement would come as a pleasant surprise."