Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida plans to introduce a constitutional amendment to keep the number of seats on the Supreme Court at nine.
The Republican’s announcement Tuesday came after multiple Democratic presidential candidates, including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, expressed they are open to “court packing,” Politico reported. The idea is to increase the total number of seats on the high court and fill them with liberal justices.
When asked about court packing, another 2020 Democratic hopeful, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, told MSNBC he supports “having a national conversation” about changes to the court and believes justices should have term limits in a way that allows every president to choose three of them.
Rubio revealed his plan to block any attempt at court packing in a tweet Tuesday.
“We must prevent further destabilization of essential institutions,” he said. “Court packing is quickly becoming a litmus test for 2020 Democratic candidates. Therefore I will be introducing a constitutional amendment to keep the number of seats on #SCOTUS at 9.”
We must prevent further destabilization of essential institutions.
Court packing is quickly becoming a litmus test for 2020 Democratic candidates.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) March 19, 2019
In an Op-Ed for Fox News, the senator wrote, “The rhetoric used by some of my Democratic colleagues that suggests our institutions are increasingly unable to resolve modern society’s conflicts is dangerous.”
Rubio recounted how Democrat Franklin Roosevelt proposed the same scheme 82 years ago when he was president because he became frustrated with the Supreme Court blocking some of his progressive agenda.
The FDR-backed Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937 would have allowed the chief executive to appoint up to six additional justices to the court for every justice older than 70 years, 6 months, who has served 10 years or more, according to History.com.
Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, told History.com a majority of the public did not support the bill and Congress never voted on it.
“Congress and the people viewed FDR’s ill-considered proposal as an undemocratic power grab,” she said. “The chief justice (Charles Evans Hughes) testified before Congress that the Court was up to date in its work, countering Roosevelt’s stated purpose that the old justices needed help with their caseload.”
“It was never realistic that this plan would pass,” Perry said. “Roosevelt badly miscalculated reverence for the Court and its independence from an overreaching president.”
David B. Woolner, senior fellow and resident historian of the Roosevelt Institute, agreed that FDR “really bungled it politically.”
Fox News legal analyst Shannon Bream noted the Constitution does not set the number of justices, leaving it up to Congress. Since the founding of the republic, the number of justices has ranged from six to 10, but for the last 150 years it has been set at nine.
At the White House on Tuesday, Donald Trump pledged that the number of justices will stay at nine as long as he is president.
“I wouldn’t entertain (changing the number of justices),” Trump told reporters. “The only reason (the Democrats) are doing that is they want to catch up. So if they can’t catch up at the ballot box, by winning an election, they want to try doing it in a different way.”
Trump says “it’ll never happen” when asked about the Democrats’ idea of adding more judges to the Supreme Court.
“If they can’t catch up in an election, they’ll just try and catch up in another way.” pic.twitter.com/vhwrN9eSde
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) March 19, 2019
“We would have no interest in that whatsoever,” he said. “It will never happen. I guarantee it won’t happen for six years.”
Town Hall political editor Guy Benson joked on Fox News’ “Outnumbered” on Wednesday in a way he wished that Trump had come out in support of the move.
“I’m glad the president said what he said, but part of me wishes he’d come out in favor of court packing or floated the notion that he might do it, because that would get the Democrats to oppose it, which they should,” he said.
“This an astonishing thing, really,” Benson added on a more serious note. “Court packing, this is banana republic stuff, and from a crowd that has been lecturing us now for two years about norms and institutions and the erosion of institutions thereof under this president, and they have a point sometimes, for them to turn around and say, ‘We want to pack the Supreme Court and add justices.’ …
“This is the opposite of respecting norms and institutions. … They lost so they want to blame the system. They want to change the rules because they lost.”
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