Expanding the Supreme Court? Toomey, GOP Senators say no.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - From nine Supreme Court justices to eleven? Even more?
Democrats on the 2020 presidential campaign trail have been floating a number of reforms they would like to see for the Supreme Court.
“If not term limits, then rotating judges to the appeals courts as well,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) proposed during a recent campaign stop.
The high court hasn’t been expanded since 1869, marking 150 years with nine justices. Last month, Republican senators, including Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) joined Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and about a dozen other GOP colleagues who are pushing a constitutional amendment to keep it that way.
“It’s a very, very bad idea to turn the independent judiciary into an extension of the political arm,” Toomey said.
The calls for change come as President Trump and Senate Republicans have confirmed two Supreme Court justices in the last two years – Neil Gorsuch and, most recently, Brett Kavanaugh – and have packed an unprecedented 95 circuit and district court judges across the country. More nominations have been sent to the Senate and are expected to be approved in the coming months.
Alan Morrison, now an associate dean at George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., has argued more than twenty cases before the Supreme Court. He remains skeptical of the Democrats’ proposed changes.
“That seems to be not a very good idea for an institution that’s supposed to be apolitical,” Morrison said. “I don’t think that would be good for the court or for the country.”
Lawmakers could avoid the lengthy process of a Constitutional amendment and instead make the change using a statute, Morrison added. But that doesn’t provide the long-term guarantee either side is looking for.
“Elections have consequences,” Toomey said, “and some of my Democratic colleagues are having a really hard time accepting that sometimes the election doesn’t go the way they would like.”
Some states have capped the number of their Supreme Court justices. But the federal government has not, which sets up this potential for sweeping, historic reform if the Democrats retain the House and win back the Senate and the White House in 2020.
For now, Morrison believes that this is simply rhetoric, not reality.
“The question is whether it makes any sense and whether it’s worth doing,” he said, “and I think it’s not.”