As conservatives celebrate the newest Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, Senate Democrats and their liberal allies renewed their calls for court packing. An oped from Congressional Institute President Mark Strand published this morning in The Fulcrum explains why that is dangerous. The headline alone sets the tone: “A Packed Court Would Neuter Judicial Independence and Strengthen the President.”
Court-packing would be a fundamental shift of judicial independence that leads down a very dangerous road to excessive executive power — because it would mean presidents could add politically sympathetic members until the Supreme Court is little more than a rubber stamp of the personal partisan policy preferences of the president.
Article III of the Constitution leave to Congress the number of federal judgeships, including how many justices sit on the Supreme Court. There are currently 179 judicial spots on the U.S. courts of appeals and, since 1869, there have been nine Supreme Court justices (one Chief Justice, eight Associate Justices).
The role of the Supreme Court, Strand wrote, is to be the arbiter of the Executive’s power. Surrender that independence to court-packing and having justices beholden to a political party and you wind up with a neutered court. What’s more, that arrangement would lead to the erosion of the rights of the minority party in Congress as safeguards such as controlling redistricting and admitting new states would wind up with legal challenges before courts that inevitably favor the majority party. From the oped:
A court-packing scheme would be a massive shift in power from the judiciary to the executive branch, one that eliminates one of the most important safeguards built into our Constitution. Over several decades, Congress has steadily ceded power to the president by ignoring its oversight mandate, not making tough budget decisions, handing-over spending prerogatives and allowing administrations of both parties to substitute regulations for legislative action.
Research sponsored by the Congressional Institute shows that independent voters are tired of political rhetoric and looking for straight answers – clear plans and solutions. You can find that research here. Dancing around the idea of court-packing does not endear voters to candidates, and meddling with long-established rules and traditions has a way of coming back to bite the political party doing the meddling. Strand wrote:
In the fall of 2013, when Democrats were the Senate majority and eliminated the effective 60-vote threshold for almost all nominations, Mitch McConnell was the Republican minority leader warning the other side ‘you may regret this a lot sooner than you think.’ This week, of course, it was the GOP leveraging its majority power to seat Amy Coney Barrett on the high court just days before the election — and the minority Democrats crying foul and warning the other side it will rue the day.
Go here to read the full oped.