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Democrats plan to unveil legislation to expand the US supreme court by four seats

Maanvi Singh
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP</span>
Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP

Democrats are planning to introduce a bill to expand the supreme court – proposing to add four justices to the US’s highest court.

Senator Ed Markey, and representatives Jerrold Nadler, Hank Johnson and Mondaire Jones plan to present their legislation Thursday at a news conference. The measure would expand the number of justices from nine to 13, according to Reuters, which reviewed a copy of the bill in advance of it being released publicly. Although Joe Biden announced a commission to study supreme court expansion and reform, the politically incendiary question of changing the court is unlikely to be approved.

Related: Biden orders commission to study supreme court expansion and reform

Progressives have been pushing to expand the supreme court, after Donald Trump’s three appointees tilted the judicial body sharply to the right. One of the positions that Trump filled was a seat that Republicans had blocked his predecessor, Barack Obama, from filling in 2016 – arguing that the winner of that year’s election should choose whom to nominate for the vacant. But last year, Republicans reversed course – rushing to approve ultra-conservative justice Amy Coney Barrett weeks before the 2020 election.

Discussions over reforming the court have taken on new urgency in recent months as the court is poised to address key questions on voting rights, reproductive rights and environmental protections.

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Republicans and many moderate Democrats have opposed the idea of expanding the court, or what they sometimes call “court packing”.

The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, said the idea of expanding the court was “a direct assault on our nation’s independent judiciary and yet another sign of the Far Left’s influence over the Biden administration”.

Biden has not taken a clear position on expansion. In the past, he has said he’s “not a fan” of the idea.

Last week, he created a bipartisan, 36-member commission aimed at studying the history of the court and analyzing the potential consequences to altering its size. The commission is lead by Bob Bauer, the former White House counsel for Obama, and Cristina Rodriguez, a Yale Law School professor who served as deputy assistant attorney general in Obama’s Office of Legal Counsel. But it is unclear what the impact for the commission would be – as it is not required to produce definitive recommendations.