While Americans favor of term limits for Supreme Court justices, they are less enthusiastic about changes to the overall makeup of the court, according to a recent Ipsos/Reuters poll.
Polling shows that 63% of respondents support the implementation of term or age limits on justices, while only 22% opposed any limits.
Yet just 38% of respondents favor adding additional justices to the court, which would expand the number of justices from nine to 13. Of those polled, 42% strongly oppose those changes, with the remaining 20% stating that they are unsure of their stance.
The last change in the composition of the Supreme Court occurred with the Judiciary Act of 1869.
This statute established that the Supreme Court would be comprised of a chief justice and eight associate justices. This act set the composition of the court by law, but not by the Constitution.
The most recent “court-packing plan” was a legislative initiative proposed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937. Known as the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, Roosevelt’s goal was to add Supreme Court justices as a way to obtain positive rulings related to his New Deal programs.
Previous rulings prior to 1937 were against the legislation, holding that it was unconstitutional.
Roosevelt’s legislation ultimately failed after facing stiff opposition, much of it from his own Democratic party.
The prospect of changes to the court has prompted GOP minority leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who serves as a senior member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, to come out strongly against any possible changes to the court.
Graham called any possible changes a “terrible idea.”
Crucial next steps
Despite the current touting of legislation by a small group of progressive Democratic lawmakers, Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made clear that she has no plans to bring any legislation to the house floor until the commission appointed by President Biden has presented its findings.
Republicans, along with many key Democrats, quickly spoke out, denouncing changes to the court and calling it a feeble attempt to stack the court.
Critics believe that proposed changes championed by progressive Democrats are not made in good faith or out of concern for the court but are only to advance more liberal policies.
The Biden administration has taken a wait-and-see approach, delaying any major moves until after the commission has conveyed its finding.