Congressional Democrats are expected to unveil legislation Thursday that would add four seats to the Supreme Court.
The Democratic bill joins the progressive push to expand the nation’s highest court after former President Donald Trump and Republicans appointed three conservative justices during the former president’s White House term.
The bill, led by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), would widen the court’s bench from nine to thirteen justices. It is co-sponsored by Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.).
Although Congress can expand the Supreme Court through legislation, it’s unlikely that the progressive move would see success on Capitol Hill, as a slew of lawmakers within the Democratic Party have voiced opposition to the idea. President Joe Biden has also indicated that he is “not a fan” of packing the court.
The legislation comes as progressive Democrats are still angry with Republicans, particularly Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for rejecting President Barack Obama’s 2016 nomination to the court to fill the empty seat. At the time, McConnell argued against the vote since the nomination was during an election year, but in 2020, the minority leader stood behind Trump’s nominee Amy Coney Barrett just days before the presidential election.
Now that the court has a conservative-leaning bench, progressive Democrats have ramped up pressures to expand the Supreme Court with other justices, despite holding ideological majorities in both congressional chambers.
The lawmakers, who will announce the proposal at a press conference Thursday morning on the steps of the court building, will be joined by progressive activists Aaron Belkin, who leads Take Back the Court; Chris Kang, a co-founder and chief counsel of Demand Justice; and Meagan Hatcher-Mays of Indivisible, according to an advisory notice. All three groups support adding justices.
“Our democracy is under assault, and the Supreme Court has dealt the sharpest blows. To restore power to the people, we must #ExpandTheCourt,” Jones wrote on Twitter.
Brian Fallon, a former Senate Democratic leadership aide and a co-founder of Demand Justice, said, “This bill marks a new era where Democrats finally stop conceding the Supreme Court to Republicans.” Fallon dubbed the court, “broken and in need of reform.”
“Our task now is to build a grassroots movement that puts pressure on every Democrat in Congress to support this legislation because it is the only way to restore balance to the court and protect our democracy,” Fallon added.
The Supreme Court’s bench has remained the same size for more than 150 years.
Biden announced the formation of a commission of liberals and conservatives to examine the makeup of the nation’s highest court last week, where the group will look into the number of justices and the duration of their time on the bench.
McConnell has repeatedly cautioned Democrats against the move, saying there is “nothing about the structure or operation of the judicial branch that requires study.”
“President Biden campaigned on a promise of lowering the temperature and uniting a divided nation,” the minority leader 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.”
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.