Court Packing: A Radical Proposal Dead and Buried by Bipartisan Consensus for Almost a Century

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding Democrats’ attempt at “court-packing:”

“Now, this week, the American people saw our Democratic colleagues go on the record on a truly astonishing policy proposal. After months of enthusiastic declarations of support, after tripping over one another to prove their devotion to the far-left core of the new Democratic Party, the vast majority of our colleagues across the aisle were unable to vote against even an obviously ludicrous proposal to tank the U.S. economy and leave American workers out in the cold.

“Now you might think that after their radical proposal met with such an inglorious end, my colleagues might choose to pause and take stock. Well, think again. Just yesterday, our Democrat colleagues introduced a Senate version of Speaker Pelosi’s sweeping legislation to rewrite the rules of American politics to benefit one side. New Washington rules for how citizens can exercise political speech. New Washington systems to funnel taxpayer dollars into the pockets of political campaigns. And an unprecedented Washington intrusion into state and local election law across the nation.

“As I’ve argued before, it conveniently turns out that the vast majority of their proposed changes seem tailored to help more Democrats get elected and stay elected. Hence, my name for this legislation: The Democrat Politician Protection Act. Apparently our friends are under the impression that, if Democrats aren’t winning as many elections as they’d like, then the entire process by which we elect our representatives must be broken.

“If Democrats don’t like an outcome, then the rules themselves need to be tossed aside. This seems to be emerging as a kind of a pattern, on the other side of the aisle. When our Constitution, our institutions, or the American people disappoint our Democratic colleagues, instead of taking the hint and perhaps making their own positions more mainstream, they look instead to change the rules. After they failed to defeat the nomination of Justice Kavanaugh last year, liberal leaders decided the underlying structure of the American judiciary needed to be radically overhauled to suit their whims. They set out to rehabilitate the absurd notion of ‘court-packing,’ a term that since the 1930s has been synonymous in American history with the idea of an unprincipled power grab.

“The idea that Democrats sometimes lose presidential elections, and that Republican presidents sometimes subsequently appoint Supreme Court justices, is apparently no longer to be tolerated. Instead of filling existing vacancies, why shouldn’t the next Democrat president just make up a bunch of new ones, so the far left can stack the Court? Forget about nine justices. Forget about judges who don’t wear red robes, or blue robes, but wear black robes. Forget about interpreting and applying our laws and Constitution the way they are written, instead of how partisans might wish they were written.

“The far left wants to forget about all that, because Democrats would rather rewrite the rules. So out of the ash heap of history came this talk of ‘court-packing.’ A notion that would threaten the rule of law and our American judicial system as we have long understood it. A radical proposal that has been dead and buried by bipartisan consensus for almost a century.

“But now? Now, President Obama’s attorney general Eric Holder says, quote, ‘We should be talking even about expanding the number of people who serve on the Supreme Court, if there is a Democratic president...’ One of our Senate colleagues, who is currently running for president, called this -- quote -- ‘interesting ideas that I would have to think more about.’ The New York Times reported that, at a recent campaign event, another Democrat candidate said he is open to the idea after being asked about it by a member of a new far-left group that is literally named ‘Pack The Courts.’

“I hope the lion’s share of our Democratic colleagues will speak out forcefully against exhuming this discredited idea. I hope my colleagues will have the courage to look these far-left agitators in the eye and tell them that some traditions and some institutions are more important than partisan point-scoring. But given that we’ve already seen Democrats rush headlong to embrace schemes like the Democrat Politician Protection Act, ‘Medicare for None,’ and the so-called ‘Green New Deal’ -- I have to say, at this point, that kind of a courageous statement would come as a pleasant surprise.”