When it comes to partisan power grabs, Republicans are the experts. In 2016, Sen. Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate refused to consider President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the high court. Republicans held the seat open for 293 days, marking the longest nomination obstruction campaign in our nation’s history. What’s more, multiple Republican senators said they would’ve held the seat open for years if Hillary Clinton had become president.
Then, just four years later, Republicans broke their own made-up rule against considering Supreme Court nominations in an election year to confirm Amy Coney Barrett barely a week before a presidential election. Coloradans had already started voting!
Through these actions, they didn’t just steal seats and grab power; they obliterated any facade that the Supreme Court is above the partisan fray. Conservatives robbed the court of any of its remaining legitimacy.
So when Colorado Politics columnist Jimmy Sengenberger suggests it would be unprecedented to make the courts political, he’s really glossing over how we got here and ignoring that his own party publicly touted changing the court’s composition if the 2016 election hadn’t gone their way.
He’s also ignoring that adding four seats is the only way to actually restore balance, integrity, and independence. It’s only once we unpack the Republican packing of the court that we can pass term limits, a code of ethics, and other reforms to depoliticize the bench — measures that this 6-3 hyper-partisian court could surely overturn.
And he’s ignoring that adding seats is a completely legitimate legislative response with precedent: the number of justices can be changed by a simple act of Congress, without a constitutional amendment, and it’s happened seven times before.
So why are Republicans so determined to block court reform, block D.C. statehood, and block voting rights? Because enshrining minority rule is the only way this Republican Party can stay in power. Just look at the fact that even though Democrats have gotten more votes in seven of the last eight presidential elections, Republicans have appointed 15 of the last 19 Supreme Court justices. Or look at the fact that even though an overwhelming majority of Americans support common-sense gun regulations, the court this week decided to take up a case to actually expand Second Amendment rights.
A two-party democracy doesn’t work when only one side believes in democracy.
I am eager to see Colorado Democrats in the House and Senate come out and strongly defend democracy by endorsing the Judiciary Act.
The author is the co-founder of Be Clear, a progressive communications firm, and an adviser to Take Back the Court.
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