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New bill would increase Supreme Court justices to 13 members

US President Donald Trump applauds Amy Coney Barrett after she was sworn in as a justice on the US Supreme Court - AFP
US President Donald Trump applauds Amy Coney Barrett after she was sworn in as a justice on the US Supreme Court - AFP

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg about six weeks before Election Day set into motion what turned out to be a literal battle to see how fast then-President Trump could get his nominee confirmed to the empty seat.

Trump looked at the vacancy on the high court as a chance to get someone who was in line with his beliefs and political views on the bench – and having a majority of GOP nominated justices would assure the Republican party of any victories when it came to lawsuits over his election tactics.

And Trump succeeded, giving SCOTUS six GOP justices and three Democratic justices after President Trump and Republicans appointed three conservative justices in four years, including one who was confirmed just days before the 2020 election.

Last week, President Biden signed an executive order to set up a commission dedicated to studying possible reforms to the Supreme Court, including an increase in the number of justices on the bench. However, Democrats aren’t waiting for the results of a commission which could take as long as six months.

The bill is being championed by Senator Ed Markey and Representative Jerry Nadler and proposes upping the number of Supreme Court justices from nine to 13—a move that can only be carried out via an act of Congress.

The move, according to NBC News, is the result of what it calls “an undercurrent of progressive fury” that dates back to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., denying a vote in 2016 to President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland in March 2016 to fill the seat left vacant with the death of Antonin Scalia.

When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, McConnell refused to even give President Barack Obama’s nominee a hearing (let alone a vote), claiming that to do so in an election year was unfair to the American people.

Marshall s famous line from Marbury v. Madison on American federal courts  power to interpret the la...

Marshall’s famous line from Marbury v. Madison on American federal courts’ power to interpret the law, now inscribed on the wall of the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.

Packing the Supreme Court
The fact that the Republicans appear to have stacked the court in their favor makes it nearly impossible for any near-future changes to happen on the high court unless legislation were to be passed amending the number of justices, and that is highly unlikely.

While our system of Government with its checks and balances is supposed to work, it is not perfect. But, this is what we have, based on a strong form of judicial review that emerged in the late 19th century. The Supreme Court is supposed to be apolitical, but the high court usually goes along with the constitutional views of the majority party in power.

Today, the power of judicial review is used sparingly by the Supreme Court. At the same time, the court can do nothing to stop the whims of a political party from packing the court with political appointees who will decide in their party’s favor on Constitutional questions, and that is not a good thing for our Democracy.

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Karen Graham is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for environmental news. Karen's view of what is happening in our world is colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in man's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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