EDITORIAL: Bid to pack court is blatant power grab by Democrats, with no chance of success

YORK DISPATCH EDITORIAL BOARD
From left, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., hold a news conference outside the Supreme Court to announce legislation to expand the number of seats on the high court, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, April 15, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
  • Some Democrats have introduced legislation to increase the number of Supreme Court justices.
  • The Democrats want to increase the number of justices from its current nine to 13.
  • The number of justices on the Supreme Court is not specified in the Constitution.

Like everything else in our nation these days, the selection of Supreme Court justices has become sadly politicized in recent decades.

Legal qualifications have taken a backseat to the partisan pursuit of power. Both parties share the blame equally for the current mess.

Now, instead of trying to restore some decorum to the Supreme Court selection process, some Democrats in Congress are attempting a longshot bid that would further politicize the system.

In short, they’ve introduced legislation to pack the court. They want to add four seats to the court, increasing the number of justices to 13, to counter the court’s rightward tilt during the Trump administration.

Democrats begin long-shot push to expand the Supreme Court

The Republicans, of course, have ripped the legislation as a blatant power grab that would reduce the public’s trust in the judiciary. In this case, the Republicans are right. The legislation has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with power.

Still, if the roles were reversed, the GOP legislators would take similar steps to preserve their power. Anyone remember Merrick Garland in 2016?

Nothing new: Attempts to pack the court are nothing new. That’s because there is nothing in the Constitution that specifically defines the number of Supreme Court justices. It’s up to Congress.

Since 1789, the number of justices has changed seven times, the last of those changes in 1869, with an increase from seven to the current nine.

Franklin Roosevelt tried to pack the court in the 1930s, and failed. This attempt should also fail.

Democrats, if they want to change the makeup of the court, should do it the old-fashioned way — by winning elections.

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Take their arguments to the people of the United States and try to convince them that their ideas should prevail.

No chance of success: Besides, the Democratic attempt to pack the court has almost zero chance of success. It’s hard to imagine any scenario where some of the more conservative Democratic senators would approve such a move.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already said she might not bring it up for a vote if it advanced out of committee and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was noncommittal as well, as is President Joe Biden.

In the end, it will be a colossal waste of time, not to mention a clear threat to judicial independence.

Where will it end? Even if the Democrats would succeed in their longshot bid to pack the court, what would happen if the Republicans regained power in 2024? Would they counter the Democratic expansion by adding even more justices to 15 or 17 or 19? Where would it stop?

Additionally, adding more justices would not necessarily guarantee the hoped-for outcome. The history of the Supreme Court is littered with justices selected by one party who ultimately made decisions that later angered that party.

Consider other reforms: If the Democrats truly want to improve the Supreme Court, they should consider other reforms, such as possible term limits for justices or establishing binding, nonpartisan rules for the selection process.

Of course, those reforms also have almost zero chance of happening. That’s because both parties have made it clear they’re not interested in the law or justice. It’s all about power.

Right now, the Democrats believe they have the power — albeit by a slim margin — and they’re trying to wield it like a club.

Nine Supreme Court justices have worked fine for more than 150 years. The number isn’t the problem.

Our nation’s partisan divide is the problem, and unfortunately that’s not going to change anytime soon.