Tina Smith cosponsors radical bill to expand Supreme Court and abolish filibuster

The last time Congress changed the number of justices was in 1869, or 152 years ago.

Sen. Tina Smith speaks in St. Paul against the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in September 2018. (Lorie Shaull/Flickr)

Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota has announced her cosponsoring of a bill to expand the Supreme Court and abolish the filibuster.

“It’s time,” Smith declared in a Tuesday afternoon tweet. “Announcing I’m the first co-sponsor of [Sen. Edward Markey’s] bill to expand the Supreme Court. Let’s restore balance to the Judiciary and eliminate the filibuster.”

Markey, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, first introduced the bill in April of this year. Titled the “Judiciary Act of 2021,” the one-page bill proposes the expansion of the Supreme Court to 13 justices.

Markey grossly mischaracterized the confirmation of Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett under then President Donald Trump as a “crime spree” that “stole the Court’s majority.”

“Senate Republicans have politicized the Supreme Court, undermined its legitimacy, and threatened the rights of millions of Americans, especially people of color, women, and our immigrant communities,” Markey said.

“I am thrilled to have Senator Smith’s partnership and support on this critical legislation,” he added.

Smith made a statement of her own, echoing Markey’s view that Republicans are the ones politicizing the Supreme Court, not Democrats. She also accused Senate Republicans of “stealing” two seats.

“Republicans have been working to politicize the U.S. Supreme Court for forty years, with the help of dark money and the Federalist Society,” she said. “With Donald Trump’s help, they stole two seats, ensuring an ultra-conservative Court that is drastically out of step with the American people.”

Smith added that “doing nothing is not an option” in the face of a Supreme Court she claims is “dangerously unmoored from any reasonable principles of legal analysis.”

“We need to abolish to the filibuster and reform and expand the Court. We have to pass The Judiciary Act to restore the U.S. Supreme Court back to reflecting our nation’s principles and core beliefs,” she said.

A press release says that the bill is “not without precedent” because “the number of justices who sit on the U.S. Supreme Court has changed several times.”

The release does not point out, however, that the last time Congress changed the number of justices was in 1869, or 152 years ago.

Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt infamously attempted to expand the Supreme Court in 1937. His plan proposed the addition of a new justice on each occasion that a justice failed to retire after turning 70 years old. Although Roosevelt had just been reelected in a landslide in 1936, members of his own party delayed and ultimately defeated the bill because they thought it was unconstitutional and incredibly divisive.

Sen. Markey and Smith’s bill faces enormous — if not impossible — challenges as well. In April, when Markey first introduced it, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she had “no plans” to bring it to the floor. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia also resolutely opposes the expansion of the Court and the elimination of the filibuster.


Evan Stambaugh

Evan Stambaugh is a freelance writer who had previously been a sports blogger. He has a BA in theology and an MA in philosophy.