It’s safe to say that Democrats in Washington, D.C. are preoccupied with the Supreme Court.
When it comes to the high court, Democrats have endured difficult setbacks in recent years. In 2016, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republican colleagues declined to confirm President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court appointee, then-Judge Merrick Garland. The following year, Justice Neil Gorsuch was appointed to the Court by President Donald Trump and was confirmed by the Senate. In 2018, Democrats’ efforts to prevent the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh fell short. Then, just last year, Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Court following the death of iconic liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The current composition of the Court—six Republican appointees and only three Democratic appointees—has Democrats concerned about potential rollbacks of Roe v. Wade and other activist court decisions.
Now that the Democratic Party has regained control of the White House and the U.S. Senate, Democrats are exploring various means to re-establish a liberal consensus on the Court.
On April 9, 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order creating a commission to study potential Supreme Court reforms. The 36-member commission, which has been hailed for its bipartisan composition, is required to finish its work no later than 180 days following its first meeting.
Other Democrats want to go beyond just studying the issue. On April 14, 2021, Politico reported that Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY10) would introduce a court-packing bill to expand the Supreme Court from nine members to 13 members.
Thankfully, neither effort appears likely to result in changes to the composition of the Supreme Court. During his campaign, President Biden stated that he was “not a fan” of court-packing. The creation of a commission looks more like an attempt to placate the progressive left than it does like a serious effort to change the Court. Regarding the legislation, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have expressed opposition to court-packing, making it unlikely that the bill will advance in the Senate. In the U.S. House of Representatives, the odds of this legislation moving seems equally unlikely. Politico reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA12) said, “I have no intention to bring it to the floor.”