GOP Reps Concerned About Court-Packing Push by Some Democrats

"U.S. Supreme Court" (CC BY-ND 2.0) by Timothy Neesam

This Tuesday, a group of Six House Republicans will introduce a constitutional amendment aimed at setting the number of Supreme Court justices to just nine in a reaction to calls from Democrats to pack the court and a commission ordered by President Biden to study the topic. 

The proposed amendment was sponsored by Republican representatives, Rep. Mike Gallagher, along with Reps. Chris Jacobs, Ken Buck, Mo Brooks, Ted Budd, and Markwayne Mullin.

According to reports, Biden has a 36 member commission tasked to study adding justices to the Supreme Court and other potential reforms. This includes “the length of service and turnover of justices on the Court; the membership and size of the Court; and the Court’s case selection, rules, and practices.”

However, Republicans stated that Biden’s commission was simply a disguise for a politically motivated effort to modify the Supreme Court. The commission was also labeled as a “direct assault on our nation’s independent judiciary” by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

“Supreme Court Following Facade Restoration” (United States government work) by USCapitol

Accordingly, the constitutional amendment proposed by Gallagher would simply require that “The Supreme Court shall be composed of not more than nine justices.”

Gallagher said of the amendment, “We don’t need a commission to know court-packing is a radical idea that would undermine confidence in one of our country’s most important — and trusted — institutions.” He added, “The Supreme Court has been comprised of nine justices for more than 150 years, and it’s time we amend the Constitution to make this longstanding precedent permanent before it’s too late.”

According to the Constitution, the number of justices on the Supreme Court, together with the general composition of the federal judiciary, are set by Congress. What this means is that there would be nothing unconstitutional if Congress add justices to the Supreme Court as it is firmly within Congress’ powers. 

However, the number of justices has been set at nine shortly after the Civil War. Another president who previously made an effort to pack the court was former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in light of its consistent rulings against his New Deal programs, was widely decried as an effort to violate the institution’s insulation from politics. Said effort by former President Roosevelt was eventually abandoned after the court started ruling in favor of the new deal. 

In 1983, when Biden was still a senator, he called the court-packing effort a “bonehead idea.” Yet now Democrats are considering the idea s they get more unpleased with the rulings against their priorities and the fact former President Trump was able to appoint three justices in just four years. The Democratic party is also calling on Congress to “expand” the court so Biden can appoint more justices of his own. 

During the campaign trail, Biden was repeatedly asked about his stance on court-packing. He stated that he would not tell voters his opinion about it until after the election. 

But now that he is already sitting as the President, he still hasn’t made a statement as to whether or not he supports court-packing.