Claiming Republicans “stole” the Supreme Court majority, U.S. Sen. Edward Markey and a coalition of Democrats introduced a court-packing bill Wednesday that would expand the high court from nine to 13 seats and, presumably, transform it into a left-leaning body for generations.
The Judiciary Act of 2021 is only two pages and less than five paragraphs but would have a seismic impact on the courts and the nation, affecting everything from abortion rights to religious liberty to laws related to the Second Amendment.
Currently, six of the court’s nine justices were nominated by Republican presidents, including three by President Trump. After Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed as a justice, First Liberty – which backed her nomination – called it the most conservative Supreme Court since the 1930s.
But the Judiciary Act of 2021 would give President Biden four new seats to fill. Presumably, it also would transform the body into a seven-member liberal majority, threatening recent court victories for the pro-life and pro-religious liberty communities. The court’s current liberal bloc only consists of three justices – two who were nominated by President Obama and one by President Clinton.
The text of the bill says simply, “Section 1 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by striking ‘a Chief Justice of the United States and eight associate justices, any six of whom shall constitute a quorum’ and inserting ‘a Chief Justice of the United States and twelve associate justices, any eight of whom shall constitute a quorum.’”
Congress has the power to expand the court but has not done so since 1869.
A similar proposal by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1937 faced significant opposition.
“Republicans stole the Court’s majority, with Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation completing their crime spree,” Markey said in a statement. “Of all the damage Donald Trump did to our Constitution, this stands as one of his greatest travesties. Senate Republicans have politicized the Supreme Court, undermined its legitimacy, and threatened the rights of millions of Americans, especially people of color, women, and our immigrant communities. This legislation will restore the Court’s balance and public standing and begin to repair the damage done to our judiciary and democracy, and we should abolish the filibuster to ensure we can pass it.”
House sponsors of the bill include Reps. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Hank Johnson (Ga.) and Mondaire Jones (N.Y.), all Democrats.
President Biden last week formed a commission to study the idea of court-packing.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) criticized the Senate and House proposal, saying it “goes against everything we believe as Americans.”
“They only want to do it for power,” he said.
Packing the court goes against everything we believe as Americans.— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) April 15, 2021
But make no mistake: this is about power and control. Democrats want to dismantle our institutions, including the courts, to enact their socialist agenda. pic.twitter.com/91tpZ9UZEN
U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb) also was critical of the bill.
“Here are some facts: The Supreme Court isn’t supposed to be America’s super-legislature; Democrats don’t have some historic mandate in a 50-50 Senate to nuke the Court; the progressive activists who wrote this bill are high on their own supply; and a whole bunch of sane Democrats are quietly praying this thing dies,” Sasse said. “The court-packing bill is delusional.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Brian PIrwin
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.