Bill to expand U.S. Supreme Court reintroduced in Congress

Democrats say the legislation is necessary to bring balance to the bench
Published: May. 16, 2023 at 5:18 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Surrounded by activisits, democrats stood outside the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday, calling for four more seats to be added to the 9-justice bench of the U.S. Supreme Court. They are urging Congress to pass legislation they’re calling the Judiciary Act, which would add four more seats.

“Our most fundamentally held freedoms are under attack from an illegitimate, far-right United States Supreme Court,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who joined other Democrats in calling the current U.S. Supreme Court corrupt.

The Constitution gives Congress the right to organize the court. The 9-justice bench has been in place since 1869. Since the formation of the court in 1790, the number of justices has changed six times.

Democrats stress it’s necessary to once again change the bench, citing polls taken over the last year that have found a majority of voters disapprove of how the court is handling its job.

They said the U.S. Supreme Court faces a ‘legitimacy’ crisis after Senate Republicans blocked the confirmation of then-President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. They criticized Republicans for then rushing the confirmation of current Justice Amy Coney Barrett days before the 2020 election. Additionally, they criticized Justice Clarence Thomas, who has been accused of failing to disclose gifts made by Republican supporters. Finally, they spotlighted the court’s decision to overturn Roe versus Wade, which guaranteed the constitutional right to an abortion for nearly 50 years.

The Judiciary Act is supported by multiple organizations, including abortion rights groups NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“The Judiciary Act must pass because we’re talking about an unelected court of judges stripping away rights and protections. Fundamental rights and protections from people all across this country. Protections that save lives,” said Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), “and we’re talking about reproductive access when we’re talking about abortion care. Abortion care saves lives because it’s healthcare. And, as a nurse, that is something that I strongly believe in and I’ve seen it in action. You know, when we talk about voting rights, people need access to the ballot box. We don’t need to have anyone talking about stripping away access.”

Republicans argue any change to the current U.S. Supreme Court is ‘court packing.’

As Democrats pursue court expansion, U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) has re-introduced his legislation to ‘Keep the Nine.’

“People understand that in Washington, D.C., the politicians will weaponize just about everything. We want to do what we can to protect the court from that kind of gamesmanship. We don’t want the size of the Supreme Court ping-ponging, going up and down, on the basis of the most recent election. You want to go to 13 justices, Well, then Republicans will go to 15. Democrats will go to 17. We need to nip that kind of obnoxiousness in the bud. That’s what the keep the nine bill would do,” said Johnson.