Buttigieg has been outspoken about his stance on expanding the Supreme Court in hopes of making it less partisan, but in an interview with Cosmopolitan, he shed some light as to the type of nominee he'd appoint as president.
"My appointments will definitely be people who share my values. But when I’m talking about the structure of the Supreme Court, I’m talking about something deeper," Buttigieg said. "I’m talking about depoliticizing the Supreme Court Because right now, every time there’s a vacancy, there’s this apocalyptic ideological battle and it hurts the court and it hurts the country."
Buttigieg went on to explain that he wanted justices "who think for themselves" and cited Kennedy and former Justice David Souter as examples.
"So I've floated several ideas and deliberately kept some level of open-mindedness about which ones are going to work best. One of them would be to have 15 members, but 5 of them can only be seated if the other 10 unanimously agree," Buttigieg continued. "The idea here is you get more justices who think for themselves. Justices like Justice Kennedy or Justice Souter, and there are many legal scholars who think this could be done without a constitutional amendment under current law."
The South Bend mayor faced backlash from the progressive left on social media with critics pointing to Kennedy's record on the Supreme Court — including his votes with the majority on the landmark 2010 Citizens United campaign-finance case and in the ruling upholding the White House's travel restrictions affecting multiple Muslim-majority countries last year.
Sanders, the first 2020 candidate to weigh in on Buttigieg's remarks, was a bit more subtle with his criticism.
"Interesting, I’d like more justices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor," Sanders tweeted.
The Buttigieg campaign slammed the tweet that went viral, insisting it "ignores" how the candidate expressed in that same interview that he wants a nominee that shares his values.
"To be clear: Pete has consistently said he would appoint Justices to the Supreme Court who share his progressive values. Kennedy was not such a Justice," Buttigieg campaign rapid response communications director Sean Savett tweeted.