A group of House and Senate Democrats unveiled a bill to expand the size of the Supreme Court from nine seats to 13, NBC News reports.
The bill to add four seats was introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, Rep. Hank Johnson and Rep. Mondaire Jones in the House and is sponsored by Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey in the Senate. It comes after Republicans blocked Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland and filled three vacancies with Trump appointees, forming a conservative super majority.
Congress has the power to change the size of the court, and has done so multiple times in the past, but the legislation is not expected to go far in the current Congress with no Republican support and expected pushback from moderate Democrats like Joe Manchin. The last time Congress voted on the size of the Supreme Court was in 1869.
President Joe Biden has also said he is “not a fan” of expanding the court, nor was the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer also recently warned that expanding the court for political purposes may undermine public trust.
Liberal groups back bill:
The bill is expected to be formally unveiled outside the Supreme Court building with activists from liberal groups like Take Back the Court, Demand Justice, and Indivisible.
"This bill marks a new era where Democrats finally stop conceding the Supreme Court to Republicans," Brian Fallon, the co-founder of Demand Justice, told NBC, describing the court as "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," he said.
Some Democrats unsure:
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, told NBC that it is "important for us to make our case to the American people as to why this is necessary," but stressed that he doesn't want to "put the cart ahead of the horse" on adding seats.
"There's been a lot of manipulation and I think it's put the court in a very perilous position, and we need to remedy the problems that McConnell caused," he said.
Biden announced that he would launch a commission to study the structure of the Supreme Court.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin said he is “concerned” about Republican tactics to “control the future of the court.”
"I'm not ready to sign on yet. I think this commission of Biden is the right move," he added. "Let's think this through carefully. This is historic."