Is It Possible to Expand the Supreme Court?

Pictured: On October 18, 2019, protestors gathered in front of the Supreme Court, which heard arguments on gender identity and workplace discrimination. Credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on September 18, 2020, many Americans didn’t take the proper time to grieve — instead, they panicked about what her passing meant for the future of the country. Holding the balance of an entire democracy is too great a burden for anyone’s shoulders, and Justice Ginsburg had been carrying that weight for a long, long time. Instead of holding space for her passing, Republican politicians wasted no time in queuing up a nominee for the empty Supreme Court seat, eventually landing on Amy Coney Barrett — a longtime Notre Dame Law School professor who served fewer than three years on the Seventh Circuit before her nomination to the highest court in the American judicial system.

In 2016, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell infamously vowed to block President Obama’s outgoing Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland on the grounds that the American people should have a "voice" and that to rush a nomination (and confirmation) would be to overly politicize the issue. In 2020, however, McConnell didn’t hold to those principles he outlined four years earlier, leading to Barrett’s confirmation hearings and equally rushed swearing in ceremony, which took place about a week before Election Day on October 26, 2020.

This move led many to criticize McConnell, including New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC), who simply tweeted, "Expand the court." Additionally, Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey (@EdMarkey), who is Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal co-author, tweeted, "Mitch McConnell set the precedent. No Supreme Court vacancies filled in an election year. If he violates it, when Democrats control the Senate in the next Congress, we must abolish the filibuster and expand the Supreme Court."

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