WASHINGTON – Democrats have introduced a bill to expand the number of justices on the Supreme Court from nine to 13. Such a move could allow President Biden to swing the current 6-3 conservative majority in favor of liberals.
The effort, condemned by Republicans, faces long odds and has raised questions about why the issue is being raised now and what Congress can actually do.
Here's a look at some key questions:
Q. Why the push now to add justices to the Supreme Court?
A. Democrats say it is in response to Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell.
Early in 2016, McConnell blocked hearings or a vote on Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama's nominee to fill the seat left by the sudden death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.
McConnell said that in an election year, the voters should decide who will choose the next justice. When Donald Trump was elected, he chose Scalia's replacement. But late in 2020, when liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, McConnell rushed through another Trump nominee to fill her a seat a week before the election which was won by Joe Biden.
"The Republicans stole two seats on the Supreme Court, and now it is up to us to repair that damage," Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., the bill's sponsor, said outside the court on Thursday.
Q. Can Congress change the number of seats on the high court?
A. Yes. The Constitution leaves this decision to Congress. It says, "the judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such inferior courts as the Congress may have time to time ordain and establish."