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Congressional Dems introduce bill to expand SCOTUS, Pelosi says she won't bring it to floor

Supreme Court
Supreme Court
Posted at 9:36 PM, Apr 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-15 12:21:53-04

While a group of Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday to expand the Supreme Court from 9 justices to 13, the bill appears to be dead on arrival.

Prior to the bill's formal introduction Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in her weekly press conference that she would not advance the bill for debate on the House floor.

“I have no intention to bring it to the floor,” Pelosi said Thursday.

She added that she backs a White House commission to study the issue and added that she believes it’s an “idea that should be considered.”

With no hope of passage in the House, the already narrow pathway the bill saw for passage has been completely blocked off.

The bill, the entitled the Judiciary Act of 2021, is co-sponsored by Democratic Reps. Mondaire Jones, Jerry Nadler, Hank Johnson and Sen. Ed Markey.

In their press conference Thursday, the lawmakers argued that in the 18th century, the number of justices on the court matched the number of judicial circuits in the country. However, that expansion of the Supreme Court stopped following the Civil War.

There are now 13 judicial circuits with nine Supreme Court justices.

Nadler argued that judicial reform was “long overdue,” pointing out the heavy case loads current justices face.

“Getting a case in front of the Supreme Court resembles a lottery for people without connections,” Johnson said noting that he believes the network connections required to get a case to the Supreme Court has resulted in a “two-tiered justice system.”

Lawmakers were also critical of actions Republicans took during the Trump administration, when three conservative-leaning judges were confirmed to the court. In particular, lawmakers pointed out that Republicans refused to hold confirmations for Obama-nominated Judge Merrick Garland prior to the 2016 election, but rushed to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett prior to the 2020 election.

"Some people say we're packing the court. We're not packing it, we're unpacking it," Nadler said.

While adding justices to the Supreme Court is a legal maneuver under the Constitution, doing so would be a highly partisan move that is without precedent in modern American history. In 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt proposed expanding the court in order to garner favorable rulings on New Deal legislation. That bill was eventually voted down by the Senate later that year.

The announcement comes less than a week after President Joe Biden signed an executive order forming a commission to study the possibility of adding more justices to the Supreme Court, in addition to other possible reforms.

The 36-member commission is planning to hold public meetings, and has 180 days to complete a report.