The ruling on affirmative action, the rulings for a web designer to refuse to design same-sex websites, and the decision to strike down President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan are expected to generate calls from the left to expand or “pack” the High Court and impose terms for Supreme Court justices. Calls to change the makeup of the Supreme Court have emerged as a response to the appointments of more conservative justices under former President Donald Trump. While concrete steps have not been taken by Congress to diminish the power of justices appointed by Republican presidents, recent high-profile rulings against the Biden administration have reignited demands for an increase in the number of justices.
Democratic Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith tweeted, “People don’t have to live under constant fear of the Supreme Court. We can’t sit on our hands while these justices carry out the bidding of right-wing organizations. Expand the Court.”
Although President Biden has established a commission to study the proposal, he has not endorsed the idea of expanding the court. In an interview with MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace, he expressed concerns that expanding the court would permanently politicize it in an unhealthy way. However, he also shared his view that the current court is “too young and too conservative,” which could have detrimental effects on the country.
The left’s discontent with the composition of the Supreme Court stems from recent and past events. Liberals accuse conservatives and Trump of unfairly obtaining at least two seats on the court, potentially tipping the balance of power among the nine justices. When Trump unexpectedly won the 2016 election, the stage was set for a shift in the ideological makeup of the high court.
Then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to allow President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, to have a hearing in 2016 after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. McConnell argued that a justice should not be confirmed during a presidential election year. However, after Trump’s victory in 2016, McConnell successfully guided the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch to replace Scalia in 2017. To overcome a Democratic filibuster, McConnell implemented the “nuclear option.” The Democrats had previously utilized this option in 2013 to bypass filibusters for nominations other than Supreme Court justices. McConnell’s use of the nuclear option secured Gorsuch’s nomination, preventing Democrats from filibustering it. In 2018, McConnell again relied on the nuclear option to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, McConnell disregarded his 2016 stance and pushed through the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett just days before the 2020 presidential election. These actions have left liberals furious about the composition of the Supreme Court and the subsequent rulings. As a result, they are advocating for changes to the fundamental makeup of the court, which is determined by statute rather than the Constitution, making it theoretically possible to expand its size.
Liberals remain upset about the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of former President George W. Bush over Democratic nominee Al Gore in the contested 2000 election. This allowed Bush to fill two seats on the Supreme Court with U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts in 2005 and Justice Samuel Alito in 2006.
The size of the Supreme Court has always been subject to political considerations. In 1863, Congress added a 10th seat to the Supreme Court for President Abraham Lincoln, although Lincoln never made an appointment. However, there were concerns that President Andrew Johnson might alter the court, prompting Congress to reduce the size to seven justices in 1867. Once Johnson left office, the number was switched back to nine for President Ulysses S. Grant. In 1937, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt attempted to “pack” the court by adding justices for every member over the age of 70. His goal was to install six of his own justices, but the plan faced strong opposition from the public and was vehemently rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Source: NYNNC

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