Amid a worsening level of concern about the U.S. Supreme Court, where judges chosen by Republican presidents currently have a majority, Democrats across the Senate and House have reintroduced a new plan to address that situation by adding spots to the bench. While the current court is comprised of nine members, the Democratic plan unveiled this week would put the total number of spots at 13.
The Republican-aligned majority on the court was essentially engineered, with Senate Republicans refusing to hold hearings on a Democratic pick for the bench when a presidential election (in 2016) was slowly approaching — and then swiftly confirming a Republican pick when the next presidential election (in 2020) was much closer. Arguments about some kind of imagined mandate from the nation’s voters because of the unified control across the White House and Senate held by Republicans in 2020 are instantly undercut by the fact that votes were being cast (in early voting) when they put Amy Coney Barrett on the bench, after already having (of course) let Trump fill the seat they refused to help fill under Obama! And now, the right-wing majority has taken steps like reversing Roe v. Wade despite it governing the U.S. legal system for decades and decades.
It’s not just about some specific policy, though. The system of the Supreme Court, as it stands, simply doesn’t seem well positioned to be an effective arbiter of the nation’s interests in disputes under federal law. Justice Clarence Thomas has been revealed by media reports to have benefited from, among other things, high-dollar travel gifted to him and his wife over the years by Harlan Crow, a wealthy supporter of Republican causes — who, reports have indicated, also paid for tuition for a family member of the judge and even evidently purchased a family residence, where Thomas’s mother has continued to live without paying rent.
“Republicans have hijacked the confirmation process and stolen the Supreme Court majority—all to appeal to far-right judicial activists who for years have wanted to wield the gavel to roll back fundamental rights,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who helped introduce the legislation, said in published comments. “Each scandal uncovered, each norm broken, each precedent-shattering ruling delivered is a reminder that we must restore justice and balance to the rogue, radical Supreme Court. It is time we expand the Court.”