search
Sections List
American Journal News

Progressives are pushing to expand the Supreme Court. Here's what that means.

The Constitution doesn’t mandate the number of Supreme Court justices, which has changed over time.

By Associated Press - September 27, 2020
Share
Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh

Since Joe Biden ran away with the Democratic presidential nomination in March, leading progressives have accepted him — sometimes grudgingly — as their party’s leader. But, in the final weeks of the campaign, the Supreme Court vacancy is threatening to inflame old divides.

Some activists on the left are pressing Biden to endorse expanding the number of high court justices should he win the White House and Democrats take control of the Senate. But Biden, who ran a relatively centrist primary campaign, hasn’t embraced those calls, worried they may intensify the nation’s partisan split.

There’s little indication that large swaths of progressives will abandon Biden or back third-party candidates, moves that wounded Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 2016 bid. But activists insist they will keep pressure on Biden to pursue dramatic reforms to the Supreme Court if Republicans move forward with a plan to quickly approve Donald Trump’s pick to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“The majority of Berniecrats will most likely vote for Vice President Joe Biden,” said Nina Turner, a former Ohio state senator and top adviser to progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns. “That doesn’t mean that they are not going to raise hell all the way.”

“Biden should make it clear that he will fight back by expanding the court if he wins,” said Turner, who is founding a firm to advance progressive causes, Amare Public Affairs.

The Constitution doesn’t mandate the number of Supreme Court justices, which has changed over time. In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt promoted legislation to “pack the court” by expanding its number of justices, an effort that stalled once the justices began to rule in his favor on policies tied to the New Deal.

Since then, the makeup of the court hasn’t been a prominent issue in national politics. That began to change after Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s contentious 2018 nomination fight. Calls to add justices grew much louder this week in response to the GOP’s rush to fill Ginsburg’s seat before the election, which would leave the court with six conservatives and three liberals.

“The politics of this are moving very, very fast,” said Aaron Belkin, director of Take Back the Court, which advocates for increasing the number of justices. “And under a Biden administration, when the court has the administration handcuffed on Day One, I think the politics are going to be changing even more quickly.”

That puts Biden in a tough spot. As someone who spent 36 years in the Senate, he built a career revering Washington’s institutions. During the 2020 primary, he pointedly declined to join rivals such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren or California Sen. Kamala Harris, who is now his running mate, in being open to court expansion.

During his first extended comments Sunday about Ginsburg’s death, Biden appealed to the few remaining moderate Senate Republicans to buck their party’s leadership, rather than to progressives looking for him to support a larger court.

Since then, Biden has largely sought to avoid the issue as he’s campaigned in battleground states, preferring instead to focus on Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and high unemployment. He ducked a question about changes to the court during an interview with a Wisconsin television station, saying a response would “shift all the focus.”

Biden has also said Democrats should concentrate on making it clear for voters why the GOP push to quickly fill Ginsburg’s seat is a “gigantic mistake and abuse of power.”

Some progressives said Ginsburg’s death laid bare why they’re backing Biden.

“Voting for Joe Biden is not about whether you agree with him. It’s a vote to let our democracy live another day,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Instagram last week.

The New York congresswoman spent months expressing skepticism toward Biden but also was co-leader of a task force on climate change that top Biden supporters and advisers formed with their counterparts from Sanders’ unsuccessful presidential campaign to try to better reach consensus on top issues. Those groups made policy recommendations that helped shape the Democratic Party platform, which was adopted at its national convention last month and was meant to avoid the ideological clashes that Clinton endured four years ago.

Sanders, who opposes Supreme Court expansion, and Warren, who has suggested she’d be willing to support it, have similarly used Ginsburg’s death as a rallying cry for Biden.

“Democracy as we know it is in danger,” Warren said at a virtual event with Virginia leaders, calling Republican court efforts “the last gasp of a desperate party that is overrepresented in the hall of power.”

During a speech Thursday, Sanders warned that Trump is openly suggesting that he’ll brand as illegitimate any election he loses. He cited “the danger that this country faces from a president who is a pathological liar, who has strong authoritarian tendencies, who neither understands nor respects our Constitution and who is prepared to undermine American democracy in order to stay in power.”

The voting results may be disputed and trigger a legal fight, Sanders said, noting that Trump “is attempting to push through a Supreme Court justice who may very well cast a vote in a case that will determine the outcome of this election.”

Rather than mentioning expanding the Supreme Court, Sanders said the way to counter that is to have the largest voter turnout in U.S. history.

“This is not just an election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden,” Sanders said. “This is an election between Donald Trump and democracy — and democracy must win.”

Just getting Biden elected might not be enough for everyone, though. Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, called the coming Senate nomination fight Biden’s chance to offer a “first big show of force as leader of the Democratic Party.”

“He can quickly unify Democrats in saying no confirmation until after inauguration,” Green said. “And promising to expand the court if Republicans do an end run around democracy.”


Read More
AJ News
Latest
Big investors are buying up single-family homes. Sen. Sherrod Brown has a plan to stop them.

Big investors are buying up single-family homes. Sen. Sherrod Brown has a plan to stop them.

By Jesse Valentine - July 09, 2024
New Mexico Senate nom Nella Domenici earned up to $1 million renting out Connecticut home

New Mexico Senate nom Nella Domenici earned up to $1 million renting out Connecticut home

By Jesse Valentine - July 08, 2024
GOP’s Mark Robinson blames bad fathers for social ills despite own son’s criminal record

GOP’s Mark Robinson blames bad fathers for social ills despite own son’s criminal record

By Jesse Valentine - July 03, 2024
Kelly Ayotte’s history of backing Medicare cuts could be hurdle in governor’s race

Kelly Ayotte’s history of backing Medicare cuts could be hurdle in governor’s race

By Jesse Valentine - July 02, 2024
Texas Republican Ken Paxton enlisted outside group to gut rights for pregnant workers

Texas Republican Ken Paxton enlisted outside group to gut rights for pregnant workers

By Jesse Valentine - June 24, 2024
Ted Cruz leverages Trump conviction on podcast for own personal gain

Ted Cruz leverages Trump conviction on podcast for own personal gain

By Jesse Valentine - June 11, 2024
Arizona Republican Kari Lake proposes massive cuts to Medicaid and Medicare

Arizona Republican Kari Lake proposes massive cuts to Medicaid and Medicare

By Jesse Valentine - June 10, 2024
Virginia U.S. Senate candidate Hung Cao says workplace diversity is ‘Marxism’

Virginia U.S. Senate candidate Hung Cao says workplace diversity is ‘Marxism’

By Jesse Valentine - June 06, 2024
Republican Bernie Moreno’s rags-to-riches story exposed as a lie

Republican Bernie Moreno’s rags-to-riches story exposed as a lie

By Jesse Valentine - May 24, 2024
What happens to clinics after a state bans abortion? They fight to survive.

What happens to clinics after a state bans abortion? They fight to survive.

By Chabeli Carrazana and Shefali Luthra - May 22, 2024
Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte took job at Caterpillar after tax fraud probe

Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte took job at Caterpillar after tax fraud probe

By Jesse Valentine - May 21, 2024
Alabama OB-GYN residencies dropped over 20% after Dobbs, state abortion ban, says analysis

Alabama OB-GYN residencies dropped over 20% after Dobbs, state abortion ban, says analysis

By Alander Rocha, Alabama Reflector - May 21, 2024
House GOP celebrates National Police Week while pushing to defund local law enforcement

House GOP celebrates National Police Week while pushing to defund local law enforcement

By Jesse Valentine - May 16, 2024
Evolution denier Mark Robinson could reshape North Carolina’s education system

Evolution denier Mark Robinson could reshape North Carolina’s education system

By Jesse Valentine - May 16, 2024
Republican Jay Ashcroft backs anti-abortion clinics that push lies and disinformation

Republican Jay Ashcroft backs anti-abortion clinics that push lies and disinformation

By Jesse Valentine - May 14, 2024
Republican Sam Brown’s assault on teacher unions could backfire

Republican Sam Brown’s assault on teacher unions could backfire

By Jesse Valentine - May 09, 2024
Florida abortion ban puts GOP Rep. Anna Paulina Luna’s anti-choice views in spotlight

Florida abortion ban puts GOP Rep. Anna Paulina Luna’s anti-choice views in spotlight

By Jesse Valentine - May 07, 2024
Trump leaves door open to banning medication abortion nationwide

Trump leaves door open to banning medication abortion nationwide

By Jennifer Shutt, States Newsroom - April 30, 2024
Republican Caroleene Dobson wants Alabama abortion ban to go nationwide

Republican Caroleene Dobson wants Alabama abortion ban to go nationwide

By Jesse Valentine - April 30, 2024
Ohio Gov. DeWine said he didn’t know of millions in FirstEnergy support. Is it plausible?

Ohio Gov. DeWine said he didn’t know of millions in FirstEnergy support. Is it plausible?

By Marty Schladen, Ohio Capital Journal - April 29, 2024
GOP Rep. Zach Nunn suggests laws against hate crime aren’t needed

GOP Rep. Zach Nunn suggests laws against hate crime aren’t needed

By Jesse Valentine - April 15, 2024
GOP Senate candidate Hung Cao blames racial equity for Baltimore bridge tragedy

GOP Senate candidate Hung Cao blames racial equity for Baltimore bridge tragedy

By Jesse Valentine - March 29, 2024
GOP Rep. Jennifer Kiggans donates thousands to far-right extremists

GOP Rep. Jennifer Kiggans donates thousands to far-right extremists

By Jesse Valentine - March 08, 2024
Ohio senate candidate Bernie Moreno: “Absolute pro-life no exceptions.”

Ohio senate candidate Bernie Moreno: “Absolute pro-life no exceptions.”

By Jesse Valentine - March 07, 2024
Anti-China Republicans pocket thousands from Chinese owned conglomerate

Anti-China Republicans pocket thousands from Chinese owned conglomerate

By Jesse Valentine - March 04, 2024
Republican Eric Hovde makes inconsistent statements about family history

Republican Eric Hovde makes inconsistent statements about family history

By Jesse Valentine - February 26, 2024
Republican David McCormick invests millions in website that platforms Holocaust denial

Republican David McCormick invests millions in website that platforms Holocaust denial

By Jesse Valentine - February 09, 2024
Lawmakers will again take up bills expanding, tightening gun laws

Lawmakers will again take up bills expanding, tightening gun laws

By Annmarie Timmins, New Hampshire Bulletin - January 31, 2024
UAW delivers rousing presidential endorsement for Biden over ‘scab’ Trump

UAW delivers rousing presidential endorsement for Biden over ‘scab’ Trump

By Ashley Murray, States Newsroom - January 24, 2024
Republicans Sam Brown and Jeff Gunter sling mud in Nevada senate primary

Republicans Sam Brown and Jeff Gunter sling mud in Nevada senate primary

By Jesse Valentine - January 17, 2024
A Young Texas Woman Almost Died Due To The Texas Abortion Bans – Now She’s Battling To Save Other Women

A Young Texas Woman Almost Died Due To The Texas Abortion Bans – Now She’s Battling To Save Other Women

By Bonnie Fuller - January 10, 2024
Health care legislation preview: Maryland advocates want to focus on access, patients in 2024 session

Health care legislation preview: Maryland advocates want to focus on access, patients in 2024 session

By Danielle J. Brown, Maryland Matters - January 08, 2024
How GOP senate hopefuls try to excuse the  January 6 insurrection

How GOP senate hopefuls try to excuse the  January 6 insurrection

By Jesse Valentine - January 05, 2024
NH lawmakers will be taking up major voting bills this year. Here are some to watch for.

NH lawmakers will be taking up major voting bills this year. Here are some to watch for.

By Ethan DeWitt, New Hampshire Bulletin - January 04, 2024
Republican US Senate candidates want to make Trump’s tax cuts permanent 

Republican US Senate candidates want to make Trump’s tax cuts permanent 

By Jesse Valentine - December 22, 2023
Rand Paul went all in on the Kentucky governor’s race. It didn’t work.

Rand Paul went all in on the Kentucky governor’s race. It didn’t work.

By - December 15, 2023
Texas governor and attorney general do little to curb state’s chemical plant crisis

Texas governor and attorney general do little to curb state’s chemical plant crisis

By Jesse Valentine - December 08, 2023
Likely GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde proposed tax hike for poorer workers and retirees

Likely GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde proposed tax hike for poorer workers and retirees

By Jesse Valentine - December 07, 2023
Whitmer signs specific criminal penalties for assaulting health care workers into law

Whitmer signs specific criminal penalties for assaulting health care workers into law

By Anna Liz Nichols, Michigan Advance - December 06, 2023
105 Republicans voted to expel Santos for things Trump has also done

105 Republicans voted to expel Santos for things Trump has also done

By Jesse Valentine - December 05, 2023
For Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another Trump term is another chance to kill Obamacare

For Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another Trump term is another chance to kill Obamacare

By Jesse Valentine - December 04, 2023
Florida Sen. Rick Scott backs Donald Trump in revived push to repeal Obamacare

Florida Sen. Rick Scott backs Donald Trump in revived push to repeal Obamacare

By Jesse Valentine - November 30, 2023
Tate Reeves took donations from power company that hiked customer rates

Tate Reeves took donations from power company that hiked customer rates

By Jesse Valentine - November 06, 2023
Daniel Cameron ran on depoliticizing the Kentucky AG’s office. He made it more political.

Daniel Cameron ran on depoliticizing the Kentucky AG’s office. He made it more political.

By Jesse Valentine - November 03, 2023
Republican operatives sound every alarm on current trajectory of 2023 governor’s race

Republican operatives sound every alarm on current trajectory of 2023 governor’s race

By Adam Ganucheau, Mississippi Today - October 24, 2023
State university board of governors vote to freeze tuition for Pennsylvania residents

State university board of governors vote to freeze tuition for Pennsylvania residents

By Peter Hall - July 17, 2024
On outskirts of RNC, Heritage Foundation touts controversial Project 2025 plan

On outskirts of RNC, Heritage Foundation touts controversial Project 2025 plan

By Ashley Murray, States Newsroom - July 17, 2024
Abortion amendment supporters ask Arkansas Supreme Court to overturn Secretary of State’s rejection

Abortion amendment supporters ask Arkansas Supreme Court to overturn Secretary of State’s rejection

By - July 16, 2024
Gov. Greg Abbott defends trip to East Asia during Hurricane Beryl

Gov. Greg Abbott defends trip to East Asia during Hurricane Beryl

By Jasper Scherer, Texas Tribune - July 16, 2024
FactCheck: Republican Sheehy revives discredited abortion claim in Senate race

FactCheck: Republican Sheehy revives discredited abortion claim in Senate race

By Matt Volz - July 15, 2024
Lawsuit seeks to overturn Michigan’s ban on conversion therapy for minors

Lawsuit seeks to overturn Michigan’s ban on conversion therapy for minors

By Jon King, Michigan Advance - July 15, 2024