Today’s news is all about the coronavirus. The issues that will determine who controls Congress and the White House in November may not yet be at the forefront of voters’ minds. But the stakes are enormous.
Today, no one can reliably predict which party will control the U.S. Senate and occupy the White House in 2021.
One issue that Democrats have effectively emphasized is the need for checks and balances on the abuse of presidential power. It could be decisive, if Democrats can make it work.
But Democrats have a vulnerability.
Some key Democrats, including senators who are being prominently considered for vice president, have indicated that they are open to passing a law to increase the size of and then to pack the U.S. Supreme Court.
The desire of progressives to replace the current conservative majority on the Supreme Court is understandable. But if one party packs the Court to enhance their own power, almost inevitably, the other party would retaliate by repacking the Court in the opposite direction.
The result would permanently undermine the independence of the Court and weaken checks and balances on the abuse of presidential power by a future president when we might need it the most.
Our late, great, Senior Sen. Robert C. Byrd, one of the Senate’s foremost Constitutional experts, was a consistent opponent of efforts to change the rules to pack the Court, no matter which party was trying to do it.
In an era where trust in politicians and government are at all time lows, polls show that most voters still trust the Court to operate in the best interest of the nation. It is especially vital, in divisive times like these, that the Supreme Court retain broad respect from the American people.
For these reasons, Court-packing should be taken permanently off the table as a political option and Democrats should be leaders in that effort.
A broad bipartisan coalition could persuade Congress to propose and states to ratify a “Keep Nine” Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that says: “The Supreme Court of the United States shall be composed of nine Justices.”
Polls show that voters oppose Court-packing by as much as a three-to-one margin and would strongly favor an amendment to ban it.
If Republicans can portray Democrats as a party that is willing to consider Court-packing, and it costs Democrats even a handful of swing voters, Democrats could lose both the White House and the chance to win a Senate majority.
Vice President Joe Biden, to his credit, has come out strongly against Court-packing.
But, given the fact that many younger Democratic leaders favor Court-packing, voters may need stronger reassurances that Democrats, if entrusted with the a majority by the American people, won’t ever pack the Court.
There is already plenty of evidence that Republicans want to label Democrats as the “pro-Court-packing” party.
The best way to put that story to rest and increase Democratic chances for victory in 2020 is also the best way to permanently ensure by constitutional amendment that no party can ever pack the Supreme Court.
That is why I am inviting Democrats to join me in supporting the “Keep Nine” Amendment to prohibit Congress from altering the size of the U.S. Supreme Court.