Tina Smith misled voters on Supreme Court expansion

"That's not what I'm looking at," Smith said during a debate last year.

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

Sen. Tina Smith appears to have misled Minnesota voters on her true stance vis-à-vis Supreme Court expansion.

Last year she did not openly support the idea. She repeatedly dodged questions about “packing the court” in the run up to the November elections.

As noted by MPR News reporter Brian Bakst, the incumbent senator wouldn’t provide a clear answer on the topic during an October 2020 election debate against Republican challenger Jason Lewis.

In the latter half of the debate, the moderator asked Smith whether or not she would support an expansion of the Supreme Court if the Senate voted to confirm Amy Coney Barrett.

“I’m just not going to go there. I have no idea what the world is going to look like,” she said, adding that her focus was on working to reject Barrett’s confirmation because of the potential damage a conservative court could inflict on the Affordable Care Act.

But when pressed by the moderator on what she would actually do in the likely event of Barrett’s confirmation, Smith said she was “not considering anything about packing the courts.”

“That’s not what I’m looking at,” she added.

Sen. Smith publicly changed course on Wednesday, however, by announcing her support for legislation that would expand the Supreme Court from nine justices to 13. She is the first cosponsor of the bill.

“Republicans have been working to politicize the U.S. Supreme Court for forty years, with the help of dark money and the Federalist Society. With Donald Trump’s help, they stole two seats, ensuring an ultra-conservative court that is drastically out of step with the American people,” she fancifully claimed in a statement. “Doing nothing is not an option — we need to abolish the filibuster and reform and expand the court.”

The bill is titled the “Judiciary Act of 2021” and was first introduced by Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts. It is a near guarantee that the bill will go nowhere. Standing in the way is the Senate filibuster, and Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema do not support its abolishment. The two senators have spoken out against the idea of “court packing” as well.