Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, co-sponsored a bill Monday that would amend the Constitution to cap the number of Supreme Court Justices at nine.
Herrera Beutler is one of 37 representatives to sign onto the legislation, all Republicans. The bill marks an early effort from the GOP to halt Democrats — who now control the executive branch, the House and the Senate — from adding more left-leaning justices to the court, countering the three appointments from the previous administration who swung the court to the right.
“To preserve the impartiality of the Supreme Court, we must fend off dangerous calls to ‘pack the court,’ which would severely deteriorate the credibility of the judicial branch,” Herrera Beutler said in a media release. “The Founding Fathers were wise to create a separate judicial branch of government to withstand partisan attacks from the legislative branch, and with recent calls by ultra-liberal Democrats to expand the court to better suit their political agenda, it’s more important now than ever to preserve its integrity.”
The House bill, introduced on Jan. 4, joins a companion in the Senate first introduced by Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in March 2019.
Some high-ranking Democrats have left the door open for adding justices to the Supreme Court. Asked about his stance on the campaign trail, now-President Joe Biden declined to take a position on the issue, calling it a distraction and a talking point for Republicans. He told CBS that he plans to establish a bipartisan commission to consider broad court reforms because it’s “getting out of whack.”
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, broached the topic in October and pointed to the growing population as a reason to expand the court; it was last adjusted for population in 1867, as the country gained more territories and federal judicial circuits.
The progressive wing of the party also points to the hypocritical confirmation precedent set by Senate Republicans over the last half-decade: In March 2015, they blocked the confirmation of nominee Merrick Garland, citing the nearness of an election eight months away. When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in September 2020, Senate Republicans pushed through the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett just eight days before the Nov. 3 election.
The confirmation of Barrett means that “nothing is off the table,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, now the majority leader, told his caucus last year.
Adding an amendment to the U.S. Constitution is a heavy lift, requiring votes from two-thirds of both the House and the Senate. An amendment can also be adopted if approved by two-thirds of all state legislatures.
It’s unlikely that the amendment will gain much traction in the Democrat-controlled House and Senate. Herrera Beutler’s co-sponsorship is her first high-profile action aligning her with the party’s leadership in the two weeks since she cast a vote to impeach now former President Donald Trump.