Former Attorney General Eric Holder urged Democrats to “use the power” of their U.S. Senate majority to pack the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary.
“It is painfully clear Democrats and progressives are uncomfortable with the acquisition and use of power, while Republicans and conservatives never have been,” Holder said during a virtual conference on judicial reform hosted by the Brookings Institution. “Our courts badly need reforms.”
“The Republicans have abused their power to give themselves an unfair advantage,” Holder later added. “It is necessary and totally appropriate to add seats.”
Holder has been an advocate for court-packing for quite some time. In 2019, for instance, he said during a discussion at Yale Law National Security Group that the next Democrat president should pack the court.
“In response to a question, Attorney General Holder said that given the unfairness, unprecedented obstruction, and disregard of historical precedent by [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans, when Democrats retake the majority they should consider expanding the Supreme Court to restore adherence to previously accepted norms for judicial nominations,” said Patrick Rodenbush, spokesperson for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee.
A Rasmussen poll recently indicated that Americans would rather see term limits on the Supreme Court before they see court-packing.
Last year, however, an academic study from political scientist Aaron Belkin of San Francisco State University and James Druckman of Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research openly encouraged Democrats to pack the Supreme Court, asserting the party would face little political fallout, if any. The study was funded by the progressive group Take Back the Court, which has openly championed court packing as a solution to a conservative judiciary.
In the study, participants were asked to choose between two hypotheticals: a “status quo” scenario and a scenario in which a Democratic Party candidate proposes court-packing to “bring greater balance to the court” while the Republican Party candidate laments how it would be “a threat to the independence of the judiciary and the rights of all Americans by radical liberals trying to change the rules so a few cities in New York and California can impose their will on the rest of us.” According to the study, scenario two had almost no impact on people’s choices.
Even the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her colleague Stephen Breyer have denounced the proposition of court-packing. Speaking with NPR, Ginsburg criticized past attempts to pack the Supreme Court, such as when President Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to do so in the 1930s.
“Nine seems to be a good number,” the justice said. “It’s been that way for a long time. I think it was a bad idea when President Franklin Roosevelt tried to pack the Court.”
Despite Eric Holder’s passion, court-packing will likely fail, given that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has said he would oppose it along with the push to end the filibuster.