ST. PAUL — As members of Congress battle over the now-vacant ninth seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, Minnesota's U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson wants to make certain lawmakers can't make politically motivated alterations to the makeup of the nation's highest court.
On Friday, Sept. 25, the District 7 Democrat introduced a constitutional amendment that would read simply: "The Supreme Court of the United States shall be composed of nine Justices."
In a news release issued Friday, Sept. 25, Peterson warned that "partisan attempts to change the size of the court will set off a judicial arms race which will further divide our country." A constitutional amendment would prevent that from occurring and "permanently protect Americans from these dangerous proposals," he said.
Peterson's proposed amendment, introduced with Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-Va., comes a week after the Sept. 18 death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In the past week, President Donald Trump has vowed to nominate a replacement for Ginsburg before the November general election, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised that the Republican-controlled Senate would swiftly confirm the nominee.
Democrats have cried foul, saying that it's too close until the Nov. 3 presidential election to fairly nominate a new justice; some states, such as Minnesota, have already begun early voting. McConnell himself, months before the 2016 election, blocked then-President Barack Obama's third Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, saying it was too close to the general election. Obama nominated Garland in March 2016, and the spot on the bench instead went to Trump's first nominee, Justice Neil Gorsuch.
Senate Democrats have little recourse should Trump nominate a new justice before November, but rumors have swirled about the possibility of Democrats attempting to pass new laws to shift the makeup of the court, such as adding additional justices. The Supreme Court has been comprised of nine justices since 1869, when Congress raised the number from seven.
“The Supreme Court is an important part of our country’s system of checks and balances, and it is vital that we preserve its independence,” Peterson said in the release. "If one party succeeds in packing the Court, the next party to hold a majority may choose to do the same in retaliation."