Why the Supreme Court must be kept at nine justices
BY REPS. COLLIN PETERSON (D-MINN.) AND DENVER RIGGLEMAN (R-VA.)
The United States Constitution established a system of checks and balances to protect the American people from abuses of power by any one branch of the United States government.
At the foundation of this system of checks and balances is an independent Supreme Court, created to prevent the abuse of power by a president or Congress.
Unfortunately, the intense partisanship in Washington, D.C., has brought out worrying proposals to increase the number of justices on the Supreme Court and then “pack” those new positions with political allies.
The U.S. Constitution does not currently specify how many Justices may serve on the Supreme Court, creating an opening that a future president and Congress may someday exploit for political advantage.
That is why we are leading a bipartisan effort to preserve the independence of the U.S. Supreme Court by asking Congress to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that simply states:
“The Supreme Court of the United States shall be composed of nine Justices.”
This amendment would permanently prevent the president or Congress from manipulating the size of the Supreme Court to obtain a political advantage.
Any attempt to pack the U.S. Supreme Court would set off a judicial arms race which will further divide our country. If one party succeeds in packing the court, the next party to win a majority may move to do the same in retaliation, further eroding respect for the court and the rule of law.
Congress last modified the number of Supreme Court justices in 1869, when it raised the number of justices from seven to nine.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously tried to pack the Supreme Court in 1937. His effort failed because the American people, as they do today, want the Supreme Court to remain an independent branch of government.
Both major presidential candidates have said they will oppose efforts to pack the court, but a constitutional amendment, such as we are proposing, is the best safeguard to protect the nation permanently from that risk.
Congress has previously amended the Constitution to meet the challenges of the times by guaranteeing voting rights for women and Americans over the age of 18, as well as an amendment limiting presidents to two terms. Our common-sense amendment addresses the real concern today that partisans in either party would try to pack the court at the expense of all Americans.
Leaders in Washington, D.C., are finding it harder and harder to find common ground. We hope elected officials on both sides of the aisle will join this effort to preserve the integrity of our judicial system.
The future of our nation depends on the preservation of an independent Supreme Court to protect our rights and freedoms. That is why America needs this amendment.