President Joe Biden’s attempts to pack the Supreme Court with liberal justices may have hit a roadblock. A commission created by Biden issued draft documents late Thursday revealing significant skepticism towards progressives who want to expand the court on purely ideological grounds.
While some commissioners agree, at least in part, with critics who want the court expanded, most conclude that “Court expansion is likely to undermine, rather than enhance, the Supreme Court’s legitimacy and its role in the constitutional system, and there are significant reasons to be skeptical that expansion would serve democratic values,” the commission said.
Many top Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, members of the squad, and Senate leader Chuck Schumer, have pushed to add seats to the nine-judge court. Liberal politicians are infuriated by rulings that have overturned Biden and Obama-era policies, while upholding most of the Trump administration’s policies, such as the Remain in Mexico policy.
READ: Court packing opposed by civil liberties groups
The calls have “been fueled by Democrats’ concerns that an increasingly conservative court presents a threat to the progressive conception of the Constitution across a range of issues, including firearms, reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, voting rights, health care, climate change, and affirmative action,” the commissioners said.
The arguments have received pushback. Supporters of the court’s current size note then-Sen. Joe Biden is on record being against court packing saying it was a “dumb idea.” Before her death, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was also against expanding the court as well as term limits for justices.
Congress does legally have the power to expand or contract justices, both sides agree. But there’s widespread disagreement on expanding the court, as the commission detailed.
“The risks of court expansion are considerable, including that it could undermine the very goal of some of its proponents of restoring the court’s legitimacy. Recent polls suggest that a majority of the public does not support court expansion. And as even some supporters of Court expansion acknowledged during the commission’s public hearings, the reform—at least if it were done in the near term and all at once—would be perceived by many as a partisan maneuver,” commissioners said.
Liberals on social media were outraged over the commission’s release.
This report is an abomination,” Slate writer Mark Joseph Stern tweeted. “It assumes that today’s Supreme Court is basically apolitical while fretting that reforms with any real teeth would politicize it, and potentially break democracy. Republicans must be thrilled with this outcome. It’s a gift to the GOP.”
“We have said since the Commission’s beginning that for the Commission to provide a meaningful contribution to restoring the legitimacy of our judiciary, it needs to advance a specific list of Supreme Court reforms that can be acted upon in the near term,” American Constitution Society President Russ Feingold said in a statement. “The discussion materials released today unfortunately fail to match the urgency of the situation and do not lay out a solution to the legitimacy crisis before us.”
Polls show the American public distrusts the idea of adding justices to the court to gain a particular ideological outcome.