Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a press conference Thursday that while she will not rule out adding members to the Supreme Court in the future, she will not bring a proposed bill to expand the Court to the floor for a vote.
Asked whether she planned to bring the bill, reportedly being drafted by House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and others, to the floor for a vote, Pelosi answered, “No.”
She later clarified, however, that she has “no plans” to bring the current bill to the floor, but that she “doesn’t know if that’s a good idea or bad idea” to expand the court from 9 to 13 members, and that future a plan to expand the court is “not out of the question.”
“No. I support the president’s commission to study such a proposal, but frankly, I’m not — right now, we’re back, our members, our committees are working. We’re putting together the infrastructure bill and the rest,” Pelosi said. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea or a bad idea. 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.”
Pelosi then suggested that packing the court is a legitimate way to break gridlock if Congress is faced with certain “challenges.”
“It’s not out of the question. It has been done before in the history of our country a long time ago. And the growth of our country, the size of our country, the growth of our challenges in terms of the economy, etc., might necessitate such a thing,” she added.
The Supreme Court has had exactly 9 justices since 1869. Prior to that, the number fluctuated from 6, at the time of President George Washington, to 5, to prevent then-President Thomas Jefferson from appointing a new justice to the Court, to 10 during President Abraham Lincoln’s tenure. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt tried to “pack” the court by adding 6 judges in the 1930s, but the Senate killed his hopes, shooting down the proposal 70 votes to 20.
The Court, it appears, has never been expanded to meet the “growth” of the country or because of economic “challenges,” despite Pelosi’s suggestion.
Democrats have toyed with the idea of “packing” the court since President Donald Trump appointed now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The bill unveiled earlier this week would have added four justices, all, it seems, appointed by President Joe Biden.
The bill is “reportedly being led by House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler of New York, Subcommittee Chair Hank Johnson of Georgia, and Rep. Mondaire Jones of New York in the House, while Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts is spearheading the bill in the Senate,” according to Business Insider.
In his first comments confirming the effort, Nadler said that the effort was not designed to “pack” the court but to “unpack” it.