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‘I have no intention to bring it to the floor’: Pelosi shoots down Democratic bill to expand Supreme Court

Oliver O'Connell
·2-min read
 (AP)
(AP)

Nancy Pelosi says she does not support the bill to expand the US Supreme Court from nine justices to thirteen as proposed by House Democrats.

When asked about the legislation, the Speaker of the House said that the proposal is not out of the question for the future, but she would not be bringing it to the floor of the lower chamber of Congress.

Ms Pelosi said that she supports Joe Biden’s commission to report back in six months on possible changes to the court, its jurisdiction, and the lifetime terms of its justices.

Said Ms Pelosi: “I think it’s an idea that should be considered and I think the President’s taking the right approach to have a commission to study such a thing. It’s a big step. It’s not out of the question. It has been done before.”

Democratic lawmakers Jerry Nadler of New York, chair of the House Judiciary Committee Mondaire Jones, also of New York, Hank Johnson of Georgia, and Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts plan to introduce the bill on Thursday.

Their proposal would add four seats to the Supreme Court. Even if Ms Pelosi did introduce the bill to the House it would only have slim hopes of being passed and less chance in the Senate.

However, the move does reflect the wishes of progressive Democrats, impatient at President Biden’s more measured approach to reforming the court. Rep Jones previously raised concerns about the make-up of the commission, but nevertheless remained hopeful that they would be in favour of court expansion.

Rep Nadler said on Thursday about the proposed bill: “Some people will say we’re packing the court. We’re not packing it – we’re unpacking it.”

During the Trump administration, the court veered to the right with three vacancies filled by conservative justices. This included the vacancy that then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold confirmation hearings for during Barack Obama’s final year in office — handing the appointment to Mr Trump.

The White House says that Mr Biden’s commission will “provide an analysis of the principal arguments in the contemporary public debate for and against Supreme Court reform, including an appraisal of the merits and legality of particular reform proposals”.

“The topics it will examine include the genesis of the reform debate; the Court’s role in the Constitutional system; the length of service and turnover of justices on the Court; the membership and size of the Court; and the Court’s case selection, rules, and practices.”

Other proposals for reforming the court include 18-year term limits for justices. Those who reach this milestone could then continue to serve on lower federal courts if they wished.

Mr Biden has said in the past that he is not in favour of expanding the court but is open to other reforms.

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