O'Rourke: Packing the Supreme Court Is 'An Idea We Should Discuss'

March 14, 2019

Presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke discussed his desire to revise the way Supreme Court justices are nominated and confirmed, while speaking at a Thursday rally in Iowa.

O'Rourke mentioned an oft-cited idea that would change the current system where nine justices are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate to a new, expanded system with 15 justices. Democrats would choose five, Republicans would choose five, and together those 10 justices would pick another five, in a vote independent of the people who picked them.

"I think that's an idea we should explore," he said.

O'Rourke also said he might support placing term limits on Supreme Court justices.

"We're a country of 320 million people. There's got to be the talent and the wisdom and the perspective," he said. "And that court should be able to reflect the diversity that we are composed of in this country."

O'Rourke is not the first candidate to support packing the courts. South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg (D.) also supported both ideas in similar wording, while speaking at Saint Anselm College last week.

"It takes the politics out of it a little bit, because we can’t go on like this, where every time there’s a vacancy there’s these games being played and then an apocalyptic ideological battle over who the appointee is going to be," Buttigieg said. "If we want to save that institution, I think we better be ready to tune it up as well."

But the idea of packing the Supreme Court is nothing new: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt tried to expand the courts in 1936, when the Supreme Court spoke out against his New Deal policies. Roosevelt attempted to push a bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee that would allow him to expand the Court, without success.

"The bill is an invasion of judicial power such as has never before been attempted in this country," the committee wrote before sending the bill to the Senate floor for a vote.

The idea of packing the courts has met similar opposition from Republicans and Democrats alike. The New York Times warned the backlash would be "even more severe" than it had been to Roosevelt.