Democrats Contemplate Stacking the Supreme Court if They Win in 2020

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) (2nd L) speaks as Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) (L) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) (R) listen during a rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court September 28, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrat Sens. Kamala Harris (CA), Elizabeth Warren (MA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) told Politico they would not “rule out” expanding the Supreme Court after the 2020 elections.

Potential approaches include raising the number of appointed justices to temper Republican influence on appointments, and setting term limits. “We are on the verge of a crisis of confidence in the Supreme Court,” Harris asserted. “We have to take this challenge head on, and everything is on the table to do that.”

Democrats are responding poorly to the potential of a growing conservative majority in the Supreme Court, and Republican efforts, which blocked Merrick Garland’s appointment during the Obama administration.

According to Politico, “Gillibrand said in an interview that she believes Justice Neil Gorsuch essentially possesses an illegitimate seat after Garland was denied even a committee hearing.” Gillibrand also reportedly wants to impose hard ethical guidelines on the judges.

“It’s not just about expansion, it’s about depoliticizing the Supreme Court,” said Warren, who also mentioned bringing appellate judges into Supreme Court cases is “a conversation that’s worth having.”

Indiana’s South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke have recently expressed similar feelings about SCOTUS, with the vocal support of liberal organizations such as Demand Justice and Indivisible. “The court should not be a court that you can figure out who the Republican judges are and who aren’t,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

“The debate is quickly moving past the question of whether Democrats should seek to reform our courts, to the question of exactly what type of reform to pursue. Adding seats to the Supreme Court is a necessary step,” said Brian Fallon, Demand Justice head and former Clinton aide. “It is reassuring to see so many candidates beginning to recognize the urgency of this.”

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), however, advises caution: “I’m open to these kind of conversations, but I really caution people about doing things that become a tit for tat throughout history.” Booker continued, “So when the Democrats expand it to 11, 12 judges, when Republicans have it, they expand it to 15 judges.”

It remains uncertain what, if anything, Democrats will do in an effort to correct the problems they see in the Supreme Court. Time, and the results of 2020’s already contentious race to challenge President Trump, will tell.

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