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Stacking Supreme Court is a “Boneheaded” Idea

May 11, 2021

As a mom to three young boys, I’ve learned that one of the most important lessons I can teach my sons is that you can’t just change the rules because you don’t like the outcome of the game.  It’s a basic Washingtonian, I thought universal, principle that you follow the rules if you want to play the game. But if the current debate over expanding the size of the Supreme Court has shown me anything, it’s that Washington, DC politicians need to learn a lesson from Washington State moms.


No, there’s no hard and fast rule that the Supreme Court must have nine members, nothing in the Constitution that says nine Supreme Court justices is a magic number.  But for the past 152 years, there have been nine – and only nine – members of the United States Supreme Court.


Now, Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts has introduced legislation to expand the Supreme Court by adding four new justices and President Biden has even enlisted a commission to review expanding the Court.  Only once in the past 152 years, in 1937, did a President seriously try to stack the Court, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fellow Democrats in the U.S. Senate rebuked him by a 70 to 20 vote.


So, what’s changed?  Nothing.


As Senator Markey said himself when he introduced legislation to expand the Court, his reason is: “Republican appointees represent a 6-3 supermajority.”  Put more simply, Senator Markey’s Democrats are not in a position of power so he’s introduced legislation to change the rules of the game so they can win.


As I’ve taught my 8 year old, this is not how you play the game.  You play within the rules, you don’t change the rules.


Markey’s crass political powerplay is exactly why the average American hates politics and career politicians.  The rules we try to teach our children here in Washington State are the same rules they break each and every day in Washington, D.C.  When they can’t get their way, they stomp their feet and take their football home rather than getting to work and doing the hard labor to actually represent the people who elected them in the first place.


President Biden has been somewhat more subtle in his efforts to change the face of our highest court.  Whether his intent is to expand the Court or whether it is to simply pacify his political base by naming a commission, President Biden knows better.  He served in the U.S. Senate for over three decades and was Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  President Biden once even called stacking the Supreme Court a “boneheaded” idea.  I agree.


And where has Senator Patty Murray been throughout this debate?  Nowhere.  Despite the fact that she has been a member of the Senate Democratic Leadership for more than a decade, and despite the fact that she has voted in the confirmation of nearly every sitting member of the Supreme Court, we have heard crickets from her as this debate has gained steam within her own Party.  Apparently our very own “mom in tennis shoes” has forgot the lessons she taught her own children.  That’s not leadership, that’s weakness.


Before entering the race for United States Senate this month, I never ran for office before, but I jumped into this race because I was sick and tired of the politics as usual that is holding Washington State back.  In even numbered years we hear promise after promise from career politicians who say they’re running because they want to fight for us.  But as Senator Markey’s legislation to stack the Supreme Court shows, in non-election years, far too many of them are serving to expand their own power.


I may not always agree with the decisions of our Supreme Court, in fact as a member of the Senate I very well may work within my constitutional duties as a check to rulings I disagree with.  But my commitment to the people of Washington State is that I will always respect the institutions to which I am elected to serve, and that begins by following the rules.

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