Democratic lawmakers on Thursday introduced a new bill that would expand the size of the Supreme Court to 13 justices, nearly four years after a top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee praised opposition to a prior similar effort.
In March 2017, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., issued a lengthy statement following the nomination of Justice Neil Gorsuch. Leahy, a former chairman and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, criticized Republican political maneuvering that allowed for Gorsuch’s appointment instead of President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, referencing a past attempt to politically influence the makeup of the high court.
“The Judiciary Committee once stood against a court-packing scheme that would have eroded judicial independence,” Leahy said. “That was a proud moment.”
That was likely a reference to when President Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to pack the court by expanding its roster to 15 justices. The newly introduced Judiciary Act of 2021 seeks to increase the number of justices to 13.
Leahy’s office did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment on the new bill in light of his past statement.
Leahy is far from the only liberal to oppose court packing in the past. In 1983 then-Sen. Joe Biden called it a “bonehead idea.” He largely avoided speaking about the issue during his 2020 presidential campaign, although he did say that he was “not a fan” of the idea.
Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer said when addressing Harvard Law School earlier this month that court packing could damage the public’s trust in the court, which “is guided by legal principle, not politics.”
Breyer added: “Structural alteration motivated by the perception of political influence can only feed that latter perception, further eroding that trust.”
The late liberal icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also opposed court packing, telling NPR in 2019 that “nine seems to be a good number” and that she though “it was a bad idea when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt tried to pack the court.”