At the last two Presidential debates, there’s been a phrase that’s been oft-repeated by the Trump-Pence campaign toward Biden-Harris: “Are you going to pack the court?”
The phrase “pack the court” was first coined back in 1937, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt hoped to add additional justices to the court in order to gain a favorable ruling for his New Deal legislation. Today, the phrase means the same thing: adding additional seats to the Supreme Court. But why is this being talked about now?
Less than a month ago, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lost her battle with pancreatic cancer, leaving one of the nine seats on the Supreme Court vacant. Before she passed away, she made it her dying wish that no Justice would fill her seat until after the election. This way, whoever is the next President–whether Trump or Biden–would be able to choose who fills her now vacant slot for a lifetime. This seems like a reasonable request, especially given Ginsburg’s incredible work and dedication to the seat she was given. But what does Trump do?
Only a day after Ginsburg passes away, he announces his intent to nominate a new Justice to the court right away. Only 10 days after she dies, he nominates Amy Coney Barrett. On October 12, the White House intends to start their confirmation hearing to fill the seat. And, by the time you read this article, Barrett may have already been confirmed to the court.
This has never happened. And setting aside the nomination of Barrett–a conservative, anti-abortion, anti-choice Justice to fill the spot of a woman who fought her entire life for women’s rights–nominating and possibly confirming a new Justice mere weeks before the election is unprecedented. Ginsburg’s death came only 46 days before election day, the closest to an election day there has been a Supreme Court vacancy since Lincoln was President in 1864. And in that case, Lincoln didn’t nominate a new justice until many days after the election.
Sure, Trump and Pence might make “packing the court” sound like a sneaky move, but Trump’s move to pack the vacant seat with his nominee so soon before the election is worse. Trump has already appointed over 200 Federal judges during his Presidency, and his move to confirm his second Supreme Court Justice just goes to show how desperate he is to have his way. By not obeying Ginsburg’s dying wish and rushing to fill her seat, Trump is hoping to make one more lasting mark before he’s possibly voted out of office by willing the highest court in the United States to bend to his conservative values.
If Barrett is indeed confirmed, the very fabric of our rights as citizens comes into question. Abortion rights, rights to birth control, same-sex marriage, could all potentially be struck down by a right-leaning court. So from this point of view, “packing the court” seems like the only way to restore any semblance of balance. By adding seats that Biden, upon his hopeful election, can fill, we might just be able to save our nation from the lasting damage that Trump wants so desperately to inflict. — Bren Swogger
Photo: Panorama of the west facade of United States Supreme Court Building at dusk in Washington, D.C., USA. (Joe Ravi, CC-BY-SA 3.0)