Washington Post editorial board warns Democrats: Court-packing would be 'historic mistake'

Media top headlines December 15

In media news today, Andrew Cuomo gets ordered to return millions from his pandemic book deal, CNN fires a senior producer charged with inducing minors for sex, and ESPN gets dragged for reviving debunked narrative that Bubba Wallace found a ‘noose’ in his NASCAR garage

The Washington Post editorial board warned against efforts to “pack” the Supreme Court in the wake of oral arguments over a controversial Mississippi abortion case that did not proceed in progressives’ favor earlier this month.

With a 6-3 conservative majority Yon the Supreme Court, some Democrats have renewed calls for packing the Supreme Court with more justices beyond the traditional nine. President Biden’s Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court recently finished its 288-page report into what Supreme Court reform would look like, but took no position on court packing.

Anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights activists are separated by a barrier as they protest outside the Supreme Court building, ahead of arguments in the Mississippi abortion rights case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, in Washington, December 1, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

“No serious person, in either major political party, suggests court packing as a means of overturning disliked Supreme Court decisions, whether the decision in question is Roe v. Wade or Citizens United,” the commission’s report read. “Scholars could say, until very recently, that even as compared to other court reform efforts, ‘court-packing’ is especially out of bounds. This is part of the convention of judicial independence.”

Oral arguments over Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban worried progressives that when it comes time to decide, the Supreme Court will gut Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 abortion rights ruling. The concern has Democrats revisiting the court-packing plan, but the Washington Post said it wouldn’t be wise because Republicans could do the same thing.

“Some Democrats believe the solution is to pack the court with Democratic nominees, expanding its size, while they still have congressional majorities,” the editors wrote. “This would be a historic mistake. It would sap the court’s legitimacy for no long-term benefit; Republicans could re-pack the court the next time they controlled Congress and the White House.”

The exterior of the U.S. Supreme Court building is seen after justices allowed abortion providers to pursue a legal challenge to a ban on most abortions in Texas, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 10, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger
(REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger)

The editors offer that a more bipartisan way to reform is through term limits. An interval of 18 years, the editors suggest by way of example, could help “lower the stakes of the court confirmation process.” The terms, they suggest, could always end in a “staggered manner” to give each president an equal number of vacancies.

Supreme Court nominations in the past few years were among the most divisive in recent history. Republicans fumed that Senate Democrats engaged in a character assassination of future Justice Brett Kavanaugh in the fall of 2018 after Christine Blasey Ford accused him of sexual assault when they were teenagers. The Senate would narrowly confirm him by a vote of 50-48.

FILE – In this Sept. 5, 2018, file photo, then Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, pauses while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings, where critics put her religious beliefs in the spotlight, were not as tumultuous as Kavanaugh’s, but their timing shortly before the 2020 election drew liberal fury. She was narrowly confirmed and cemented the Supreme Court’s conservative majority.

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