After the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, people all over the country are asking one simple question—what happens next? President Trump and the Senate have pushed through with the confirmation of nominee Amy Coney Barrett as a new Supreme Court Justice, and we are now left with a six-three conservative majority on the highest court in the country. With every issue in our country becoming increasingly politicized, the fact that this confirmation came so close to the election is sparking lots of debate.
In 2016, after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold a vote to confirm President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland eight months and twenty-seven days before the election. He held the seat open until the newly inaugurated President Trump could fill it with his nominee, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch. Although Trump resoundingly lost the popular vote and has been impeached, he has now filled three seats on the court. Although Justice Ginsburg passed away a mere forty-six days before this year’s election, the Senate Republicans still pushed for Barrett’s confirmation. They claimed that this instance was different from 2016 because currently the Senate and White House are Republican, whereas, in 2016, the White House was Democratic. Although this is extremely hypocritical, Barrett has now been confirmed.
A solution to this issue for a possibly newly Democratic Senate and White House is to add justices to the court. While this is considered an unusual idea, it is not against the Constitution and has been attempted before. In 1937, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt tried to pass a legislative initiative to increase the number of justices to fifteen to obtain favorable rulings towards his New Deal legislation. The bill eventually died in Congress without ever being voted on.
One proposed way to pack the court involves adding a new justice every year until there are fourteen justices on the Supreme Court with fourteen-year term limits. Having fourteen justices would allow liberals to combat the 6-3 conservative majority. The creation of term limits would combat the politicization of the court by allowing presidents to appoint justices based on their ability to interpret the Constitution. Currently, justices are being appointed based on their political views, and if they would be reliably liberal or conservative. Not only would expanding the court help decrease the politics involved, but more justices could also better reflect the American people as a whole, instead of the small percentage currently represented. Having an even number of justices could potentially lead to a permanent solution regarding ties in the court. The current policy is to either find a smaller solution that still does not resolve the issue as a whole or allow the ruling of a lower court to stand. However, both options defeat the purpose of having a Supreme Court in the first place. Yet, the idea of adding five justices hasn’t even been mentioned by anyone in political circles. Instead, the most commonly brought up plan is to add two justices to the court, raising the total number to eleven. This would be a much more likely outcome because it is not an extremist solution to what some view as extremist actions of the Republican party.
However, all of this is a moot point at the moment, as former Vice President and current presidential candidate Joe Biden has not confirmed his stance on court-packing yet. Based on the extreme hypocrisy shown by members of the Republican party, Democrats will most likely take action to combat the confirmation of Barrett. The Supreme Court is supposed to uphold the rule of law impartiality, and that has lessened increasingly in the recent past. With the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, Republicans have placed partisanship over the precedent of the court. Therefore, we must look at the election that decides the future of our country to make a decision that will allow impartiality to be restored to the highest court.