Joe Biden Clashes With Progressives Over Supreme Court Expansion

The Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on Friday has prompted calls to reform the nation's highest court to ensure that its decisions are fair and balanced.

Some Democrats favor expanding the number of seats in the court to restore what many Americans say is a loss of legitimacy. Although the court currently has a conservative majority of 6-3, President Joe Biden has said that he doesn't support the expansion of the number of judges.

There's no legal requirement for the Supreme Court to be composed of nine justices and the size of the institution isn't specified in the U.S. Constitution. So, while the number of judges has been fixed for the past 150 years, it's not formally bound to stay that way.

Historically, there has been a minimum of six justices and a maximum of 10.

Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington called for the expansion of the Supreme Court on Twitter on Sunday. Her post was re-shared by over 2,000 people, including Dem. Rep. Mondaire Jones of New York and candidate rep. for Florida Maxwell Alejandro Frost.

Expanding the court is also among the seven things Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York suggested in order to fight back against Roe v. Wade being overturned in the country. "We can do it! We can at least TRY," Ocasio-Cortez wrote.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts also called for the expansion of the court, alongside declaring a public health emergency, abolishing the filibuster and establishing state abortion havens.

"13 circuits, 13 Justices," tweeted Dem. Cong. Florida 2020 nominee Pam Keith.

Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and New York City Mayor Eric Adams also called for the court to be expanded.

"We need to balance out this court before they do more harm than what they've done thus far," Adams said at a press conference on Friday.

Calls for an expansion of the court have been made by people outside the world of politics too, including author and law professor Jennifer Taub.

"The veil has fallen," Taub wrote on Twitter. "It's a an anti-majoritarian political body. There are 13 circuits. We need 13 justices."

NBC and MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan also said the court should be expanded, saying: "Codifying Roe won't work/be enough if you have a far-right, packed GOP court that will happily shoot down any new law."

The idea of adding seats to the nation's highest court didn't emerge for the first time in the aftermath of the overturning of Roe v. Wade last week. In 2021, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren called for its expansion in an op-ed to restore the characteristic independence that should belong to the judiciary.

"Without reform, the court's 6-3 conservative supermajority will continue to threaten basic liberties for decades to come," Warren wrote.

The list of Democrats and political commentators who are currently calling for more judges on the Supreme Court continues, but the most prominent Democrat in the country is against the idea.

Joe Biden said he "does not agree with" expanding the number of seats in the court, according to what White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on June 25. Jean-Pierre didn't elaborate on the president's reasons.

Last year, a group of Democrats —including Reps. Jerrold Nadler, Hank Johnson of Georgia, Mondaire Jones of New York and Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts— tried to pass a proposal to expand the number of seats on the Supreme Court from nine to 13.

The move was attacked by Republicans and criticized as "court-packing." Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on that occasion, said she had "no plans to bring it [the proposal] to the floor."

Supreme Court Expansion
Several Democrats are calling for an expansion of the Supreme Court to make it an independent judiciary again. In this combination image, pro-abortion rights activist Sierra Frey cries while protesting in front of the Supreme Court on June 26, 2022 in Washington, DC and and Joe Biden (Inset) speaks at the G7 summit, June 27 2022. Getty