On Sunday, multiple Democratic senators used the term “court packing” to describe Republican efforts to seat a new Supreme Court justice while ballots are being cast for this year’s presidential election.
The public condemnations come as the Senate prepares to begin confirmation hearings on Monday for Amy Coney Barrett, a federal judge Senate Republicans are hurriedly trying to seat following the Sept. 18 death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“Court packing” is a term often associated with efforts to expand the number of judges on a court, but it also refers to efforts to guarantee courts have a specific and narrow ideological bent. Currently trailing in polls in key battleground states, Trump has said he hopes his appointee ― Barrett, if confirmed ― will hand him this year’s election by ruling in his favor in voting rights cases his campaign could bring before the Supreme Court.
During a Sunday interview on Fox News, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said Republicans are deploying court packing in trying to seat Barrett, echoing comments Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden made Saturday.
“Instead of passing a COVID relief package that will help millions of Americans who are unemployed, who have been infected, whose businesses or employers have closed, we’re focusing on jamming through Justice Barrett,” Coons said. “I think this constitutes court packing and, frankly, I think that’s the implication of what Joe Biden was saying.”
Recent polling data compiled by FiveThirtyEight found a majority of Americans believe the winner of this year’s presidential election should be the one to select Ginsburg’s replacement. Biden has declined multiple attempts to pin him down on whether he’d support adding more associate justices to the Supreme Court. Congress has changed the number several times since the U.S. began.
Coons and an increasing number of Democrats have openly referred to Barrett’s confirmation as “court packing” in recent weeks as they face a Republican Senate majority committed to seating her before Election Day, and they are increasingly using the term to condemn the GOP’s broader push to prioritize lifetime judicial appointments for conservative loyalists hostile to racial justice, reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights.
“The American people have watched the Republicans packing the court for the past three and a half years, and they brag about it,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“We are dealing with people on the court, packing into the court, with little or no qualifications for a long time,” he added.
Durbin is part of a chorus of Democrats who have denounced Republicans’ hypocritical stance toward confirming Barrett compared to their refusal in 2016 to hold a hearing for then-President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. Republicans let Merrick Garland’s nomination for Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat languish for 293 days until it expired in January of the next year.
“The [Democratic] base is correct in believing that the Republicans changed the rules four years ago,” Durbin said, adding, “Now they’ve completely reversed themselves.”
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