As they rushed to pack their own nominee onto the Supreme Court with just days to go before Election Day, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday just couldn’t stop talking about some Democrats’ stated openness to adding more justices to the court.
Four years after Senate Republicans refused to even consider President Barack Obama’s nominee for the court for the better part of a year (in addition to blocking dozens of lower court nominees), several Republicans used the first day of hearings on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to pull out the fainting couch.
“Lately the left is threatening to pack the Supreme Court in retaliation for this confirmation process,” the committee’s former chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), said during his opening remarks, referring to the notion of expanding the court as a “blatantly partisan policy grab.”
Following his own central role in blocking Merrick Garland’s nomination in 2016, Grassley said in 2018 that he would do the same in the future if President Donald Trump nominated someone in 2020.
But on Monday, Grassley made no mention of those remarks, saying instead that “Republicans are following the Constitution and the precedent.”
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), who similarly refused to even meet with Garland and later dodged questions on why he didn’t support confirmation hearings for the judge, said Monday that adding justices to the court “is a bad idea that politicizes the judiciary and reduces public trust.”
A day prior, Sasse described expanding the court as “the suicide bombing of two branches of government.”
The Democratic presidential ticket, former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris, have avoided answering in recent weeks whether they support adding justices, or else making other changes to the court. Harris, who’s on the Judiciary Committee, didn’t mention it on Monday.
But that didn’t stop several Republicans on the committee from assuming Democrats’ position.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) asserted of Democrats, “they’ve said if this confirmation proceeds, they intend to pack the court with more justices who will turn the Supreme Court into a genuine second legislative body.”
And Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), who in 2016 said Garland’s views on the Second Amendment were “enough, in and of itself, for me” to ignore the judge’s Supreme Court nomination, said of Barrett’s fast-tracked nomination process, “any claim that this process is unusual or that it violates the clear precedent of the Senate is simply false.”
He pivoted quickly to the Democrats.
“My colleagues on the other side are actually proposing court-packing,” he said, distinguishing between what he and the rest of the Republican Senate majority did in 2016 and Democrats “threatening to pass a law and change the court.”