OPINION: Packing the court is an insult to democracy

Former Vice President and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has been asked on various occasions recently if he would pack the court and has avoided the question nearly every time. However, at a town hall hosted by ABC News on Oct. 15, Biden told moderator George Stephanopoulos that by Election Day he would respond and explain what would determine his decision.

“If there’s actually real, live debate on the [Senate] floor, if people are really going to be able to have time to go through this,” Biden said about appointing Barrett, “[then] I’m open to considering what happens from that point on.” 

With a court dominated by the other party, many are concerned that if Biden were to win the election, he would pack the court. Packing the court is when more Supreme Court justices are appointed over the usual nine in order to gain preferable outcomes on rulings. 

An additional four Democratic justices would need to be appointed to gain a majority vote, but this would be a major abuse of power. 

The Supreme Court was created to head the judicial branch to check Congress and the president when necessary. Packing the court would set a precedent for either party in control to repeatedly add justices to gain a majority, a massive overstep of executive power.

After Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed Sept. 18, Senate Republicans have raced to appoint U.S. Federal Judge Amy Coney Barrett before Election Day on Nov. 3. If the Senate votes to appoint Barrett, there will be a 6-3 Republican majority on the Supreme Court. 

Senate Democrats warned Republicans that if they appointed Barrett, they would retaliate in 2021. Minority Senate Leader Chuck Schumer said in a press conference Sept. 22 that “everything is on the table” if the Democrats flip the Senate this election. Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey also tweeted Sept. 26 a glimpse of the route Democrats could consider taking.

“If Republicans confirm Judge Barrett, end the filibuster and expand the Supreme Court,” Markey wrote.

This idea is out of line with over a century of precedent. There hasn’t been a change to the number of Supreme Court justices in over 150 years.

After the Supreme Court was created in 1789, it changed seven times within the following 80 years, fluctuating between five and 10 justices. The last time it changed was in 1869 from seven to nine. 

If Biden and Senate Democrats try to tip the scales, they will bring a great injustice to our democracy. Supreme Court justices were not supposed to be appointed in this way and our leaders realized this centuries ago.

To counter these threats, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and other Senate Republicans made two proposals Oct. 19. 

The first is a constitutional amendment called “Keep Nine.” The amendment would cap the court at nine justices. However, an amendment is notoriously difficult to pass because it requires two-thirds of each house to ratify it as well as three-fourths of the states.

The other proposal is a bill to prevent legislation from changing the number of justices on the Supreme Court. Cruz made a statement Oct. 19 as he introduced the proposal.

“We must take action before Election Day to safeguard the Supreme Court and the constitutional liberties that hang in the balance,” Cruz said. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce these two commonsense proposals, which will prevent either party from adding or contracting the number of justices on the bench for political advantage.” 

If the proposed amendments are passed, they will keep the president from abusing their power to control the judicial branch. The Keep Nine amendment should be easily passed as its sole purpose is to stop a potential misuse of executive power. If you believe in democracy, call your local representative and senator to tell them to vote for it.