House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday said she opposes a bill being introduced by members of her own party to expand the Supreme Court to 13 seats and said she has no plans to bring it to the House floor, though she didn’t rule out the proposal for the future.
Asked during a press conference if she supports the bill and plans to bring it to the floor, Pelosi replied, “No,” adding that she supports President Joe Biden’s commission to study the issue and other court reforms.
Pelosi clarified that she currently has “no plans” to bring the bill to the floor but said she “doesn’t know if that’s a good idea or bad idea,” adding that it’s “not out of the question” for the future.
The bill is being introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Reps. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The comments are unwelcome news for progressives seeking to dilute the court’s conservative majority: Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice, said the bill “marks a new era where Democrats finally stop conceding the Supreme Court to Republicans.”
But Pelosi’s answer is likely as strategic as it is ideological, given that the bill is unlikely to pass the House, much less the Senate, where it would need 10 Republican votes to overcome a filibuster.
Though Biden’s commission is meant as a nod to advocates for expanding the Supreme Court, it was met with cries of inadequacy from progressive activists, who criticized the presence of conservatives and opponents of court-packing in its ranks, as well its mission to “study” the issue rather than make formal recommendations.
The National Republican Campaign Committee, the House GOP’s campaign arm, signaled its eagerness to use a court expansion effort against vulnerable Democrats. In a statement, NRCC spokesman Mike Berg half-jokingly suggested Democrats would roll it into an infrastructure plan “just like all of the other unrelated socialist nonsense in Democrats’ ‘infrastructure bill.’”
Democrats have looked to history to make the case for expanding the court, with Pelosi even noting it’s been “done before” – though the last time was in the mid-19th century. Democrats have also pointed at Senate Republicans refusing to consider Merrick Garland in 2016 and confirming Amy Coney Barrett weeks before the 2020 election as examples of them firing the first shot in the norm-busting tit-for-tat.
What To Watch For
Progressives pushing the bill could attempt to get it on the floor through a discharge petition, though that would require support from a majority of House members. Given that Democrats have just a 5-seat majority, Pelosi’s opposition makes a discharge petition all-but-certain to fail.