Harry Reid Warns Dems Against Packing Supreme Court

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 17: Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks prior to the Nevada Democratic's "First in the West" event at Bellagio Resort & Casino on November 17, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Nevada Democratic presidential caucuses is scheduled for February 22, 2020. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
April 12, 2021

Former Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) on Saturday cautioned Democrats against expanding the size of the Supreme Court.

"I think we better be very, very careful in saying that we need to expand the Supreme Court," Reid told CNN. The former senator also said President Joe Biden's commission to study Supreme Court reforms, which the White House announced Friday, will "disappoint a lot of" Democrats because it will recommend Congress "leave [the Court] alone."

Biden's Supreme Court commission will examine a host of reforms for the nation's highest court, including its "membership and size," according to a White House statement. 

The administration's announcement comes amid a recent push by congressional Democrats to expand the Supreme Court after former president Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the bench last year. Sen. Ed Markey (D., Mass.), a proponent of court packing, accused Republicans on Saturday of "stealing seats" and said expanding the number of justices would "restore integrity to the Court."

Senate Republicans, on the other hand, have slammed the White House's commission, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) calling it a "direct assault on our nation's independent judiciary."

Any changes to the size of the Supreme Court, which is set at nine justices, would require 60 votes in the Senate—an obstacle that has fueled calls from liberal activists to eliminate the filibuster. Some Democrats, including Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), however, have voiced support for keeping the filibuster, stymieing efforts to overhaul the High Court.  

As Senate majority leader, Reid eliminated the filibuster for executive branch and federal judicial nominations but not nominations to the Supreme Court in 2013, prompting McConnell to extend the so-called nuclear option to High Court nominees in 2017. Reid's decision helped pave the way for the Court's conservative majority—the Senate confirmed all three of Trump's Supreme Court nominees with fewer than 60 votes.

Among other reforms, Biden's commission will also consider term limits for justices. Reid told CNN such a change would be "inappropriate" for the Supreme Court.