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Democrats’ Controversial Push to Pack Supreme Court: A Threat to Judicial Independence

In a move criticized as undermining the sanctity of America’s highest court, Democrats are ramping up efforts to alter the Supreme Court’s composition— a proposal facing resistance from Republicans, moderates, and even President Biden himself.

In a dramatic departure from constitutional norms, the Congressional Progressive Caucus is once again championing the cause to expand the Supreme Court. The goal? To introduce four new justices to the bench, an apparent ploy to tip the scales in favor of a liberal majority. This follows a week in which the current conservative-majority court delivered constitutional rulings, affirming the court’s role as an impartial arbiter of law and justice.

This polarizing court-packing proposal was first launched in 2021 in the aftermath of the Senate confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, nominated by then-President Donald Trump. The Senate confirmation, carried out as per the Constitution’s stipulations, is being used as justification for a controversial court expansion that could fundamentally alter the Court’s role and independence.

The U.S Supreme Court plays a critical role in the U.S. system of government by interpreting the constitution and resolving disputes involving federal law. It is the final arbiter on what the constitution says and how it applies to various situations, which is vital in maintaining the rule of law and democratic principles. 

While the Court does not make law in the sense of legislative action, its decisions can have a profound effect on law by interpreting existing statutes and the constitution, thereby shaping the legal landscape. However, the justices of the Supreme Court are not supposed to make decisions based on personal preferences, political leanings, or to advance specific agendas. Rather, they are expected to be impartial, applying the law as it stands to the facts of each case and assessing whether it aligns with the existing legal and constitutional framework. 

As such, Supreme Court rulings are not inherently “pro” or “anti” a specific issue or group; they are guided by a detailed legal analysis of the case before them. The Court’s significance lies in its duty to uphold the constitution and ensure the protection of citizens’ rights and freedoms, irrespective of public opinion or political pressure.

Representatives Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) have also revived legislation imposing 18-year term limits on Supreme Court justices. Critics argue that this move could politicize the court, threatening the lifetime appointments intended to safeguard judicial impartiality.

The proposal is facing significant roadblocks, not only from President Biden but also from Republicans and moderate Democrats who see it as a threat to judicial independence. Republicans in the House are steadfast against adding justices, and the plan lacks the necessary support to bypass the 60-vote filibuster threshold in the Democratic-led Senate.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has been vocal in his defense of the Supreme Court, introducing a constitutional amendment in 2021 to keep the number of justices at nine. This safeguard, he argues, is crucial to maintaining the court’s independence and not allowing it to be manipulated by shifting political winds.

A common critique among Republicans and constitutional scholars alike is that the Democrats’ push to expand the Supreme Court undermines its independence and could set a dangerous precedent. It’s a critique worth considering as the nation strives to uphold the integrity of its highest judicial institution.

It’s also worth noting that the number of Supreme Court justices is set by Congress and has remained at nine since 1869, ensuring a stable and predictable framework for the nation’s highest court.

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