Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee joined several House Democrats on Monday calling to expand the Supreme Court through legislation.
“This is not court-packing. This is a constitutional privilege that we have because there’s no debate that under constitutional structure Congress has the power and responsibility to regulate the size of the Supreme Court,” Jackson Lee said at a press conference on the Capitol steps.
Jackson Lee said Republican presidents have appointed 15 of the 19 last Supreme Court justices despite losing the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections.
Jackson Lee is an early co-sponsor of the Judiciary Act of 2021, which expands the number of Supreme Court justices to 12.
Rep. Hank Johnson Jr. of Georgia introduced the legislation last year, but the bill did not receive a vote or advance out of the chamber.
“There are alarm bells that are clanging, if you listen carefully you should be able to hear them,” Johnson said during the conference. “They herald a Supreme Court that is at crisis with itself and with our democracy. It is a Supreme Court where basic freedoms are under assault.”
So far, the court has overturned Roe v. Wade, limited federal agencies from curbing emissions, and helped blur the line between church and state.
Representative Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat from Michigan and member of “the squad” spoke prior to Jackson Lee, warning that the Supreme Court was unhinged and that more decisions were coming.
“So we’ve got to act, we’ve got to be proactive,” Tlaib said. “I’ll tell you this much, the otherside would not hesitate once to do what we’re about to do, which is continue to push and advocate.”
While President Joe Biden has been opposed to the idea, other House Democrats like Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal have also called for the court to be expanded. In the Senate where many Democrats are still lukewarm on the idea, the effort is being led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ed Markey (D-MA).
“When a court consistently shows that it no longer is bound by the rule of law, Congress must exercise its constitutional authority to fix that court,” Warren argued in an op-ed in December, prior to Roe v. Wade being overturned.
Markey, who attended the press conference, called the Supreme Court an illegitimate, far-right radical court.
“Recent polls show that Americans’ confidence in the highest court is at an all time low, with just one in four Americans reporting confidence in these politicized, polarized justices,” Markey said. “Simply put, this is a crisis of legitimacy for the United States Supreme Court.”
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org