Congressional Democrats are expected to introduce legislation Thursday to expand the Supreme Court from nine to 13 justices, likely intensifying the debate over the future of the high court and potential for its reform.
The effort to expand the Supreme Court comes after Senate Republicans filled three vacant seats on the court with conservative justices under former President Donald Trump, including one who was confirmed just days before the 2020 election.
Led by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and House Judiciary Chair Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the bill likely won’t see much movement in the Senate with strong Republican opposition and some moderate Democrats who have opposed court expansion.
Justice Stephen Breyer recently urged lawmakers to “think long and hard” before making changes to the court. He suggested last week that adding seats could risk politicizing the court and potentially erode public confidence in the institution.
The lawmakers plan to announce the introduction of the bill outside the Supreme Court building where they will be joined by groups that have advocated for adding justices.
“The Court’s conservative supermajority has led the charge in Republicans’ assault on voting,” Aaron Belkin, the director of the group Take Back the Court, said in a statement applauding the legislation. “Unless we add seats, they will continue to green light voter suppression and dismantle efforts to protect Americans’ most fundamental rights.”
Belkin is expected to join the lawmakers when they announce the introduction of the bill outside of the Supreme Court on Thursday.
Last week, President Joe Biden announced that he would launch a commission to study the structure of the Supreme Court, which has fluctuated in its number of seats since its inception but has maintained a total of nine justices since 1869.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has warned against adding seats to the court.
“President Biden campaigned on a promise of lowering the temperature and uniting a divided nation,” McConnell said in a statement last week. “If he really meant it, he would stop giving oxygen to a dangerous, antiquated idea and stand up to the partisans hawking it.”
His admonishment comes after denying a vote in 2016 to President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee and citing the approaching election. Years later he pushed to confirm Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett the week before the 2020 presidential election.