Blinken calls court-packing ‘anti-democratic,’ as some Democrats push for it
Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned any move to undermine a country’s democracy by “packing courts” for political gains and jeopardizing judicial “independence” – an issue driving debate among U.S. lawmakers.
During a Tuesday speech in Ecuador, Blinken highlighted telltale signs of moves to undermine a democratic society.
“Consider a country where a leader is elected in a free and fair election and then sets about chipping away slowly but surely, at the pillars of democracy – attacking the free press, undermining the independence of the courts, threatening political opponents,” he said. “Now, imagine that leader then seeks to use the levers of democracy to pass anti-democratic reforms, eliminating term limits, packing courts, firing legislators.
“That’s the story of more than one democracy in our hemisphere. And it’s one of the ways that democracies can come undone,” he added.
Blinken’s comments come after some Democrats on the Hill have repeatedly urged President Biden and their congressional colleagues to add justices to the Supreme Court.
While there is no constitutional limit on the number of justices who can sit on the court, only Congress can decide how many justices preside at one time.
Nine justices have filled the top bench since 1869, though the number has ranged between five and 10 throughout U.S. history.
Following the swift confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett in October 2020 – marking former President Donald Trump’s third successful Supreme Court nomination – some Democrats have called to overhaul the nation’s highest court.
In April, Biden established a commission to review arguments for and against expanding the court. But last week, a draft review of the findings by the commission left some Democrats fuming.
The commission was “divided” on the calls to add justices to the Supreme Court and it noted there could be “considerable” risk to expansion.
The group further expressed concern that expansion would undermine the credibility of the high court.
While conservatives have condemned calls to expand the court, Democrats like House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., have claimed that adding justices would be “unpacking” the court.
“We are not packing the Supreme Court, we are unpacking it,” Nadler said during an April press conference.
The White House has said it will continue to review the analysis of the commission’s findings.