Following through on threats that have emanated for months, a group of Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday to expand the size of the U.S. Supreme Court by adding four more seats to the bench. But in a stunning move, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has decided to reject the effort.
According to the New York Post, the House’s top Democrat said she would not bring the measure to the floor for a vote.
The decision comes after the Democrats behind the bill said it would help restore “balance” on the court and “undo the damage” they say was done by former President Donald Trump, as the Daily Caller reported.
Packing the court?
According to the Post, the measure was backed in the Senate by Massachusetts’ Ed Markey (D) and in the House by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY).
The bicameral legislation would increase the size of the Supreme Court from nine justices to 13, allowing President Joe Biden to effectively transform a current 6-3 conservative tilt on the bench to a 7-6 majority for the left.
According to a transcript provided by her office, Pelosi was grilled on whether she’d support the bill during her weekly press conference Thursday, where the speaker indicated that she’s waiting to hear the recommendations from a commission recently established by Biden to study potential court reforms.
“No,” Pelosi told reporters, asked if she’d commit to bringing the new bill to the House floor for a vote. “I support the president’s commission to study such a proposal.”
“It’s a big step”
The speaker went on to say she’s not sure that court-packing is “a good idea or bad idea.”
“I think it’s an idea that should be considered, and I think the president is taking the right approach to have a commission to study such a thing. It’s a big step,” she said, according to the transcript.
“It’s not out of the question. It has been done before in the history of our country, a long time ago,” Pelosi added. “But in answer to your question, I have no plans to bring it to the floor, no.”
According to USA Today, Pelosi was correct that expanding the Supreme Court “has been done before,” but she was also right that such a move hasn’t been made in “a long time.” In fact, the last time that the size of the high court was altered by Congress was in 1869, when the bench was set at nine jurists.
Adding seats was also considered during former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second term, as FDR wielded the proposal as a threat to cow the court into upholding his New Deal policies. Roosevelt ultimately backed off amid opposition from his own Democratic Party, USA Today noted.