Editorial: No to packing the Supreme Court

The Editorial Board, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Political News

When Franklin Roosevelt tried to "pack" the Supreme Court in 1937, that is, expand its membership so he could bend its membership toward the New Deal and its majority ideology toward the Democratic Party, he was shut down.

The plan was to add a new justice each time a justice reached 70 and failed to retire. It would have meant six new justices.

Roosevelt was understandably frustrated with the court knocking down one New Deal reform after another.

But the court packing plan set off a firestorm. Not only the sitting justices and the Congress but the newspapers and the attentive public all let FDR know, in no uncertain terms, that he had overstepped his bounds.

It was a rare political miscalculation for a master politician.

President Joe Biden, who is a student of history, and of FDR, should learn from the mistake.


Biden is turning out to be a pretty good politician himself, and is on a roll right now. He should drop any notion of a new court packing scheme, for it is a political as well as a moral and conceptual blunder.

The political error is that it will be widely seen, as it was in FDR's case, as a power grab and presidential overreach.

The moral and conceptual error is not constitutional. Nothing in the Constitution prevents the court from being smaller, which it once was (six) or larger.

What's wrong, and it is an affliction of both parties, is changing the rules when you don't get the result you want: We lost, so change the voting rules.


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