by J. Pharoah Doss
For New Pittsburgh Courier
After Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Sept. 18, the Republicans decided to nominate and confirm Ginsburg’s replacement before the presidential election on November 3.
This dramatic move led to a Supreme Court with a 6-3 conservative majority, and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party has threatened to “pack the court” in retaliation. That means if the Democrats win the presidency, retain the House of Representatives, and recapture the Senate, they could expand the Supreme Court to 15 members by appointing six liberal justices in order to create a 9-6 majority.
The Constitution didn’t set an exact number of seats for the Supreme Court; therefore, Congress can change the number of justices at their whim. There were five justices under John Adams and 10 justices under Abraham Lincoln, but the Supreme Court has remained at nine justices since 1869.
In the past, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden opposed “court packing” (along with Ruth Bader Ginsburg), but during the first presidential debate, Biden refused to say whether or not he would “pack the court” if elected.
Biden continued to avoid “court packing” questions for weeks after the first debate.
During the vice-presidential debate, when Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris was asked if a Biden/Harris administration would “pack” the Supreme Court, she turned around and accused the Trump administration of court packing. According to Harris, since Ginsburg’s replacement would create a 6-3 conservative majority, the Trump administration already packed the court with conservatives to the detriment of the nation.
The mainstream media ignored the fact that Harris shifted the definition of “court packing” from a numerical increase of justices from 9 to 15 to simply having a majority within the existing nine-member court. This alternative definition enabled Democrats to convince themselves the Republicans already packed the court in their favor; therefore, they are justified to create additional seats to regain the majority.
Harris convinced many undecided voters in swing states the Democrats were going to pack the court. Why wouldn’t they? It goes right along with the progressives insisting Biden should prioritize statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico within the first 100 days of his administration, guaranteeing four new senatorial seats in Democratic strongholds—packing the Senate in their favor.
Eventually, Biden remembered politics was the art of compromise and he won the Democratic presidential primary as a moderate in opposition to the progressive agenda, and, more importantly, Biden needed to resolve the matter entering the final weeks of the presidential election or President Trump would have launched a series of attack ads on “court packing” alone. Therefore, Biden let it be known that a Biden administration would put together a bipartisan commission of constitutional scholars, Democrats, Republicans, liberals and conservatives, and give the commission 180 days to come up with recommendations on reforming the court system.
Biden’s bipartisan commission silenced those that claimed he was going to “pack the court,” but it enraged the progressive wing of the Democratic party.
Progressive groups denounced Biden’s plan. The executive director of Demand Justice stated: Biden’s proposed commission runs the risk of stalling momentum for serious reform. The window when Democrats may have the power to implement court reform may be short and a commission that would allow opponents of structural reform to run out the clock is not a solution—it’s a punt.
During the Democratic presidential primary, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stated the Democrats can “cultivate too big of a tent” because in another country she would not be in the same party as Joe Biden. A.O.C. also referred to Biden and the centrist wing of the Democratic party as “the tea party of the left.” (Around this same time Biden referred to himself as a “transitional” candidate. When the press asked Biden what he meant by “transitional,” Biden gave an unclear response, but the meaning was clear to the progressives, especially to Kamala Harris, who kept referring to the ticket as Harris/Biden instead of Biden/Harris.)
Biden’s bipartisan commission proposal was a strategic balancing act that was necessary going into the final weeks of a hard-fought campaign, but the progressive reaction proved they are unreasonable, and totally committed to seizing power, not just from the Republicans, but from “the tea party of the left” as well.