Progressives call to expand Supreme Court hits roadblock with Biden administration

Justice at the United States Supreme Court
While progressives renew calls to pack the Supreme Court, the Biden administration has shown little interest in court expansion.
Photo courtesy Getty

As a nation grips with the reality of the Supreme Court’s decision Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade through a swath of nationwide protests over the weekend, New York progressives are renewing calls to pack the court, in efforts to neutralize the bench’s 6-3 conservative supermajority.

In a lengthy Twitter thread on Saturday, U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called on President Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats to address the court’s current nine-person structure, calling for reform measures such as court expansion and restraining judicial review.

“Past Presidents, from Lincoln to FDR, understood the dangerous stakes of allowing an unchecked Court overreach its authority and threaten our democracy,” the progressive tweeted. “The President & Dem leaders can no longer get away with familiar tactics of “committees” and “studies” to avoid tackling our crises head-on anymore: restrain judicial review, open clinics on federal lands, court expansion, expand Fed access/awareness of pill abortions.”

There’s no legal requirement for the Supreme Court to be composed of nine justices and the size of the institution isn’t specified in the U.S. Constitution. So, while the number of judges has been fixed for the past 150 years, it’s not formally bound to stay that way.

With Roe overturned, New Yorkers grapple with a nation divided in its legal rights

And it’s not just progressives joining the call for court expansion, as New York City Mayor Eric Adams said court expansion is “critical” in a media round this weekend.

However, Supreme Court expansion or court packing does not seem to be a priority or desire for the Biden administration, the White House said, despite his criticism of the Supreme Court rulings handed down this week on gun rights and abortion.

Democrats have previously called on Biden to endorse legislation that would add more judges to the nine-member Supreme Court in order to offset the current conservative majority.

“That is something that the president does not agree with,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One on Saturday when asked about such a reform. “That is not something that he wants to do.”

In 2021, Biden put together a commission to study options for Supreme Court reform, and the commission recommended a few solutions including term limits.

On Friday, The Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade – the landmark case guaranteeing a right to abortion. So far, 22 states have made it illegal or inaccessible to obtain an abortion.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court struck down New York’s handgun-licensing laws that require those seeking to conceal carry to provide special need to do so — drawing questions of the court’s legitimacy across the nation.

Belief in the highest court in the land is at an historic all-time low, with just 25% of the nation having strong confidence in the Supreme Court’s decisions, according to a Gallup poll released this month — a drop from 36% the year prior.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at rsequeira@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes

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