House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made clear Thursday that she does not currently support a bill pushed by some Democrats to expand the court and does not intend to bring it to the House floor for a vote.
“No,” Pelosi said at her weekly press conference when asked if she supports the bill and if she would commit to bringing it to the floor, though she did say she believes “it’s an idea that should be considered,” and said “it’s not out of the question.”
“I support the President’s commission to study such a proposal,” Pelosi said, a reference to a 36-member commission the White House established last week to study the US Supreme Court. Pelosi added “I don’t know that that’s a good idea or a bad idea. I think it’s an idea that should be considered.”
She went on to say, “It’s a big step. It’s not out of the question. It has been done before in the history of our country a long time ago and the growth of our country, the size of our country, the growth of our challenges in terms of the economy, etc, might necessitate such a thing, but in answer to your question I have no plans to bring it to the floor.”
The legislation introduced by a group of House and Senate Democrats, would add four seats to the Supreme Court, an idea that has been championed by progressive grassroots activists and gained momentum in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s successful appointments of three conservative justices to the high court during his time in office.
The bill is an effort by progressives to blunt the impact of the current conservative majority on the court. The idea of expanding the court, however, has sparked quick pushback from Republicans, who describe it as a partisan power grab, and has not been embraced by top party leaders.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, told CNN that he is not ready to endorse the new bill to expand the Supreme Court to 13 justices, saying he is not prepared to bring it up for a committee vote yet.
“I’m not ready to sign on,” he told CNN. Durbin added that he wants to wait and see what the new White House commission on overhauling the court suggests. He said while he’s critical of the way Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has handled the court, “I want to make sure that my response to that is reasonable, fits into the cause of justice.”
“I’m not yet convinced the court needs to be expanded,” Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia told CNN on Thursday of the idea.
“I think we should do view with great caution any effort to expand the number of justices,” Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said. “I will await the results of the President’s commission on this issue.”
Republican senators, as expected, blasted a proposal being introduced by some Democrats to expand the Supreme Court from nine to 13 justices.
Sen. Lindsey Graham called it a terrible idea, and both GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley and Graham cited former the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s words that nine is the right number for the court.
“Stability is what I’m worried about,” Graham said. “If they tried to expand the court to dilute a conservative majority, the next time Republicans in power will we change the number. And you make the Supreme Court, basically, a political football that loses its independence its consistency. It was bad idea when FDR tried to do it, it’s a bad idea now, and I’m hoping some Democrats will see that this will overtime undermine the rule of law.”
“The other thing is they forget history,” Grassley added, citing President Joe Biden when he was a senator, he said, calling expanding the court a “bonehead” idea, “So that ought to speak for better than anything else than I can say what the President said in the past.”
In a 2019 interview, Ginsburg seemed to oppose expanding the bench.
“Nine seems to be a good number. It’s been that way for a long time,” she told NPR. “I think it was a bad idea when President Franklin Roosevelt tried to pack the court.”