WASHINGTON (Reuters) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she has “no plans” to introduce legislation to expand the U.S. Supreme Court by four justices to the floor. Pelosi said she favors President Joe Biden’s proposal to study the issue.
The Judiciary Act of 2021 is a proposal aimed at breaking the conservative grip on the court that promises to draw fierce opposition from Republicans.
Senator Ed Markey and House of Representatives members Jerrold Nadler, Hank Johnson and Mondaire Jones introduced legislation in both chambers that would expand the number of justices to 13 from the current nine.
Markey said the measure would “restore balance” to the court. Former President Donald Trump was able to appoint three justices during his four years in office, giving the court a 6-3 conservative majority.
“Senate Republicans have politicized the Supreme Court, undermined its legitimacy and threatened the rights of millions of Americans,” Markey said in a statement.
Imposing term limits on the justices would likely require a constitutional amendment, though some scholars have proposed ways to accomplish it by statute.
One congressman told NewsNation’s Joe Khalil there’s growing support among Republicans for an amendment solidifying the number of justices on the Supreme Court as nine.
President Biden last Friday established a bipartisan commission to study potential Supreme Court changes including expansion or imposing term limits on the justices instead of the current lifetime appointments. Biden gave the commission 180 days to report its findings.
The number of Supreme Court justices has remained at nine since 1869. Congress has the power to change the number and did so several times before that. Democrats hold slim majorities in the House and Senate. The Senate is divided 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting a tie-breaking vote. Most legislation needs 60 votes to advance in the Senate.
Expanding the court, an idea popular among some liberals and activists on the left, has not drawn broad-based support, with some Democratic leaders expressing uncertainty and Republicans firmly opposed to what is sometimes called “court packing.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, a Democrat, balked at the idea of bringing the legislation to a vote in his panel.
“I’m not ready to sign on yet. I think this commission of Biden is the right move,” Durbin said.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell denounced the legislation as a vehicle for Democrats to “pack the court, destroy its legitimacy, and guarantee the rulings that liberals want.”
Some Democrats and liberal activists have said all options including expansion must be considered to counter an entrenched conservative majority that could threaten abortion rights, civil rights, gun control and access to healthcare in the coming years.
© 2021 Thomson Reuters.