Report: Biden team starts staffing Supreme Court reform commission


WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The Biden administration is reportedly taking steps to consider changes to the Supreme Court, according to Politico which cites people familiar with the discussions.

Politico reports the president’s team has already selected some members of a bipartisan commission to study possible reforms.

Explaining the makeup of the court
(From L) U.S. Supreme Court justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Elena Kagan and Brett Kavanaugh attend President Joe Bidens inauguration as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 20, 2021. – Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the US. (Photo by JONATHAN ERNST/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

NewsNation wanted to take a step back and explore the makeup of the court as it is now, how it got that way, what changes could be coming and what that would mean.

The first rules about the size of the court came in 1789, when Congress set the number at 6 justices.

Different laws over the next 80 years caused that number to fluctuate.

At most, there have been 10 sitting justices. The fewest were 5 seats. In 1869, a law fixed the number at 9 and it has not changed since.

The graphic above includes Justices from 1886 to 2016.
Seated, from left: Justice Horace Gray (photographed in 1886), Justice John Marshall Harlan (in 1899), Chief Justice William Howard Taft (in 1923), Justice Tom C. Clark (in 1965) and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (in 2010); standing, from left: Justice William B. Woods (in 1886), Justice George Shiras (in 1899), Justice Thurgood Marshall (in 1970) and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (in 1981)
(Courtesy: Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States)
Both Sides

To explore both sides of this story, NewsNation spoke with Aaron Belkin and Anthony Marcum.

Belkin is the director of “Take Back The Court,” the founding director of the Palm Center, a gay rights organization and public policy think tank. He also holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley.

“The court has implicated itself in the sabotaging of democracy, of blocking millions of Black and brown voters from the polls and is very unlikely to allow this administration and Congress to deal with planetary emergencies like climate change,” Belkin said.

Marcum is a resident fellow at the R Street Institute, a free-market think tank. He’s also an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management and a member of the Washington D.C. Bar Association.

“It’s politically, incredibly shortsighted. If Democrats were to expand the number of seats on the Supreme Court when Republicans return to power, they would easily respond in-kind, doing nothing for the institution,” Marcum said. “Secondly, a lot of these political problems we’re talking about aren’t best solved by the courts. These are the sort of things we want our lawmakers at the state or federal level to deal with.”

Belkin argues the nation’s high court was “stolen” in 2016.

“The Republicans have already stolen the court, and if your wallet is stolen you wouldn’t forgo efforts to get it back, just because it might be stolen again,” he said. “A parallel point is the Republicans will try to pack the court if and when they need to do so, regardless of what Democrats do.”

Marcum said a lot of these discussions is based on “frustrations with the direction of the court.”

“When we’re talking about packing, what we’re actually doing would be legislatively expanding the number of seats. Republicans have not done that and Republicans, even when pressured to do so at the federal level have still refused to,” he said.

Watch the full discussion about Supreme Court reform in the player below.

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