Many Americans are asking Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to answer what they believe to be a simple question “Do you support expanding the Supreme Court?”
Although it may seem like there should be a straightforward answer, Biden and Harris are facing a complicated situation.
What exactly does it mean to expand the Supreme Court?
As most Americans know, there are nine justices on Supreme Court Justices. Most assume that the number of justices was set in the constitution and that we’ve always had nine. The truth is, the constitution allows Congress (through legislation) the ability to determine how many justices are on the court, not Biden or Harris, and during the court’s existence, it has fluctuated in size from as few as five to as many as ten.
If Congress wanted to, they could expand the court to 50 justices. But as we’ve seen, this is not a popular idea.
How expanding the court became a political issue?
With Ruth Bader Ginsburg passing away just months before the election, many thought there should be a waiting period until after the election to allow the American people to have a say in who they believe should nominate a new justice. The American people did not get this opportunity as President Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett (which is his constitutional right) and Senate Republicans have stated that they will approve her nomination and that she will be on the Supreme Court before the election.
The same Republicans who are orchestrating this historic event are the same who blocked President Obama’s replacement of Antonin Scalia in 2016 because they believed the American people should have a voice in the process — through the election.
Even though Senate Republicans are breaking the promises they made in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and even 2020 about waiting until after the election, there is a major consequence for this pick — The balance of the court.
Balance of the court
Before Ginsburg passed, conservatives had a 5-4 majority with Chief Justice John Roberts siding most of the time with the conservative justices. When Amy Coney Barrett joins the court, many fear that the court will be extremely unbalanced. With her on the court, there will be a 6-3 conservative majority. Americans fear that Obamacare could be repealed, as well as Roe v. Wade severely limited. There are many other things that a conservative Supreme Court majority will shape that many Americans do not agree with.
If the Democrats win the presidency and win back the Senate, then we can assume a 6-3 conservative majority on the court does not represent the views in America. This is why Biden and Harris will not answer anything until after the election.
Amy Coney Barrett is an extremely talented and qualified person to fill a vacancy in the Supreme Court, but the American people should have a choice in the process. If Republicans win, then the nomination should go forward and we should accept the nominee and support the current nine-justice system.
If the Republicans succeed in getting her on the court and the Democrats win on Nov. 3rd, then there will be a movement from some to expand the Supreme Court because a 6-3 conservative majority does not represent the views of America.
Bradley DeMers is senior studying political science at FHSU. He is a former Student Government Association president and has worked for politicians in both main political parties.