America has seen what a 6-3 Republican-favored Supreme Court can do regarding upending standards around climate change, reproductive rights, and gun safety. With important decisions around affirmative action and voting rights coming in the fall, a solution that’s been floated is expanding the number of judges on the high court. As The Hill reports, Senate Democrats are divided on fully seeking that as a viable option.
The last Supreme Court expansion was back in 1869 when the Judiciary Act set it to nine seats. President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to institute artificial term limits with his Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, but it failed to pass. Rather than trying to add judges, some Senate representatives feel that instilling ethics standards for Supreme Court justices to adhere to is the way to go. As currently constructed, justices are the only ones who do not have to abide by a code of ethics.
From The Hill:
“Definitely better disclosure of guests and hospitality has momentum because, although the Supreme Court tried to duck it, the Judicial Conference is looking into it,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, referring to the national policy-making body for the federal courts.
“Definitely sussing out who the dark money donors behind the right-wing amici has momentum because again, although the Supreme Court has tried to suppress that, the Judicial Conference has gone ahead to make inquiries,” he added.
Others like Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) want to abolish the filibuster to pass laws to set up an expansion of seats. Warren has even written an op-ed in the Boston Globe, not only speaking to the potential dangers of how the court is constructed but wanting to stop justices from accepting all-expenses-paid trips.
“We need to repeal the filibuster so that we can expand the Supreme Court to reclaim the two stolen seats on a now illegitimate court, which are stealing the rights of American people,” Markey said at an event in Boston after the court struck down Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion rights case, last month.
As The Hill points out, not everyone is on board with the court expansion push. Particularly senators who are up for re-election this November in tight races. This is besides Sens. Joe Manchin(D-WV) and Krysten Sinema (D-AR), who are against adjusting the filibuster. Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) stated, “You’d have to talk about specific details, but I have not been in favor of expanding the size of the court.” Kelly could be basing his ideas on a recent poll where a slight majority of Americans oppose expanding the Supreme Court even after the abortion ruling.
Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) also wanted to focus on immediate legislation when speaking to The Hill.
“Right now, I’m focused on lowering costs for Georgians who are pushing their way back and want to see us cap the cost of insulin, which is a bill we need to get done,” he said, indicating he wants to stay focused on fighting inflation.