The Congressional Progressive Caucus on Wednesday endorsed legislation to expand the size of the U.S. Supreme Court by four seats ― a big boost for the relatively few but vocal progressive lawmakers and groups demanding reforms to the high court.
“After thoughtful consideration, the Progressive Caucus membership has determined that the urgent work to restore American democracy must include expanding the Supreme Court,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who chairs the caucus of nearly 100 House Democrats, said in a statement.
Jayapal said the Supreme Court has become too extreme and partisan in recent years, citing its decisions to gut the Voting Rights Act and public sector unions. She also criticized conservatives on the court for enforcing “unconstitutional abortion bans” and failing to overturn “the blatantly discriminatory” executive orders from former President Donald Trump aimed at banning travelers from predominantly Muslim countries.
“The current bench was filled by a partisan, right-wing effort to entrench a radical, anti-democratic faction and erode human rights that have been won over decades,” said the caucus chairwoman. “As a co-equal governing body, Congress cannot sit by while this attack on the Constitution continues unchecked. I am proud that our Caucus is joining the fight to expand the court and restore balance to the bench.”
The caucus is throwing its support behind the Judiciary Act of 2021, which would increase the number of justices on the court from nine to 13.
Sponsors of the bill were elated, of course.
“The critical issues that impact our day-to-day lives ― such as voting and civil rights, reproductive freedom, climate justice, and consumer and workers’ rights ― are being decided by a GOP-packed conservative supermajority on a United States Supreme Court, which is destroying its own legitimacy with partisan decisions that are upending decades of precedent and progress in this nation,” said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), the bill’s lead sponsor. “I want to thank Chair Jayapal and the entire Progressive Caucus for endorsing and supporting the Judiciary Act.”
“A clear majority of Americans supports Court expansion because the people understand what’s at stake,” said Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.). “I’m thrilled that the Congressional Progressive Caucus is with us in this fight.”
The caucus’s endorsement means the Judiciary Act will now have the support of well over 100 House Democrats. The House bill currently has 46 Democratic co-sponsors; the Senate version has three: Sens. Ed Markey (Mass.), Tina Smith (Minn.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), who announced her support last month.
In reality, the Judiciary Act isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s popular among progressives, but it needs a lot more Democratic support to get moving in Congress. It also takes 60 senators to advance any legislation, and there are currently only 50 Democrats.
It’s also probably not a coincidence that the Progressive Caucus is backing the bill at the start of an election year, making the issue of Supreme Court reform a fresh talking point for progressive lawmakers heading into reelection campaigns in November.
But supporters of the bill concede it will take time to persuade a majority of Democrats to back their effort. Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice, a progressive judicial advocacy group leading the charge on the issue, previously told HuffPost that the push to expand the court is part of a long-term plan to make the courts more of a priority for Democratic activists — something Republicans have outperformed Democrats on.
“After a series of major breakthroughs in 2021, The Judiciary Act is kicking off 2022 with another major endorsement, showing more and more Democrats understand it is the only way to restore balance to the Supreme Court,” Fallon said Wednesday. “With this endorsement, the CPC is giving a major boost to the only reform bold enough to rebalance a Supreme Court that currently threatens any progress on issues progressives care about.”