Democrats begin long-shot push to expand the Supreme Court

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From left, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., hold a news conference outside the Supreme Court to announce legislation to expand the number of seats on the high court, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, April 15, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON – A group of congressional Democrats introduced legislation Thursday to add four seats to the Supreme Court, a long-shot bid designed to counter the court’s rightward tilt during the Trump administration and criticized by Republicans as a potential power grab that would reduce the public’s trust in the judiciary.

President Joe Biden last week created a commission to spend the next six months examining the politically incendiary issues of expanding the court and instituting term limits for justices.

The fight over the composition of the nine-member court has become increasingly contentious over the past two decades, with fierce battles over nominees and acrimonious debates about the politicization of the judicial branch.

But the bill's introduction had an inauspicious start. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she might not bring it up for a vote if it advanced out of committee and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was noncommittal as well.

Democratic lawmakers and groups supporting the court expansion bill gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court to make their case.

“Some people say we're packing the court. We're not packing it. We're unpacking it," said the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep, Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. He said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and the GOP had "packed the court over the last couple of years. This is a reaction to that. It's a necessary step in the evolution of the court."

Inside the Capitol, Durbin, made clear that he wanted to wait for the White House's 36-member commission to report its findings before deciding on a course of action.

“I’m not ready to sign on yet,” Durbin said. “I think this commission of Biden's is the right move. Let’s think this through carefully. This is historic.”