Topline

Progressive Democrats in Congress plan to announce bicameral legislation to expand the size of the Supreme Court from 9 to 13 in a long-shot effort to dilute the current conservative majority of the nation’s highest court.

Key Facts

The bill is being proposed 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 House Judiciary Committee.

The lawmakers will hold a press conference on the effort on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. along with representatives from liberal judicial activist groups that have pushed to reform the court, including Demand Justice and Take Back The Court.

Jones, in a statement to Forbes, said “our democracy is hanging by a thread. And the far-right majority on the U.S. Supreme Court is cutting it,” citing recent decisions allowing unlimited corporate spending in elections, striking down parts of the Voting Rights Act and restricting federal courts from ruling against gerrymanders.

Jones added, “The majority’s doctrine is clear: if a law suppresses the right to vote, it is constitutional; if a law protects the right to vote, especially for Black and brown voters, it is unconstitutional,” arguing the bill would “restore power to the people.”

Brian Fallon, the executive director of Demand Justice, said the bill “marks a new era where Democrats finally stop conceding the Supreme Court to Republicans,” vowing to “build a grassroots movement that puts pressure on every Democrat in Congress to support this.”

In anticipation of the fierce pushback the bill will get from Republicans, the advisory cites the “historical precedent” that Congress has expanded the court seven times – though the last of those was in 1869.

Key Background

Calls for court packing became mainstream during the Trump era, with progressives arguing that it’s a fair tit-for-tat after Republicans refused to consider Garland and later confirmed Neil Gorsuch to the seat. The calls grew particularly ferocious after Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s seat just weeks before the 2020 election.

Chief Critic

Republicans have almost uniformly opposed efforts to pack the court and often tried to make it a key issue in last year’s presidential campaign in an effort to force then-candidate Joe Biden into an unpopular position. A group of nearly a dozen Senate Republicans in January introduced an equally long-shot constitutional amendment that would cap the court at 9 justices.

Big Number

47%. That’s the share of voters who said they oppose expanding the number of Supreme Court seats in a Washington Examiner/YouGov poll of 1,200 registered voters in October, shortly before Barrett was confirmed. Just 37% said they support such an effort – 60% of Democrats but only 32% of independents and 5% of Republicans.

Tangent

Biden gave a nod to advocates for court expansion last week by announcing a commission to look at various areas of reform, including the “membership and size” of the court. But Demand Justice said in a statement the development is “unlikely to meaningfully advance the ball on Court reform,” citing the large number of academics and the presence of conservative opponents of expansion, as well as the fact that it is “not tasked with making formal recommendations.”

Crucial Quote

Jones, in a statement, praised the commission as an indication Biden is serious about reform but criticized its membership, arguing “many Americans would be rightly skeptical of a commission composed almost entirely of people protected from the real-life consequences of the Supreme Court’s right-wing extremism.”

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