"Expand the court": Ilhan Omar and Mondaire Jones join rally outside US Supreme Court

Washington DC - Exactly one year after Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation as a Supreme Court justice, activists and lawmakers gathered on the steps of the court on Tuesday to demand Congress expand the body.

Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar joined calls to pass the Judiciary Act and add four more justices to the Supreme Court.
Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar joined calls to pass the Judiciary Act and add four more justices to the Supreme Court.  © IMAGO / NurPhoto

Sens. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Tina Smith of Minnesota joined Reps. Mondaire Jones of New York, Veronica Escobar of Texas, and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota at the rally, which took place online and in person.

The politicians called on Congress to pass the 2021 Judiciary Act, which seeks to add four more seats to the Supreme Court.

They were accompanied by a crowd of protesters cheering, "Expand the court!"

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The speakers noted that the number of justices has already been changed seven times in US history, and all it takes is for Congress to approve the additions.

"Congress can change the number of justices on the court at any time through the legislative process, as it has done so many times in American history," Omar said.

Nevertheless, Biden has been reluctant to get behind court expansion. For now, he has created a commission to study possible court reforms before making any moves.

In its initial report, the commission, which consists mostly of academics, seemed to advise against adding more justices, suggesting that doing so could run a "considerable" risk of reducing SCOTUS' perceived legitimacy.

"These seats were stolen"

New York Rep. Mondaire Jones is one of the original co-sponsors of the Judiciary Act of 2021.
New York Rep. Mondaire Jones is one of the original co-sponsors of the Judiciary Act of 2021.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

The speakers shot down criticism that expanding the court in a partisan manner would erode confidence in the institution.

They argued that Republicans have already stacked the court in their favor with dirty tricks.

"Let's not forget: these seats were stolen," Omar reminded the crowd.

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"Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell pulled off one of the greatest heists in the history of the United States," Markey elaborated. "Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell stole two Supreme Court seats from the people of the United States of America."

The lawmakers were referring to the Republican-majority Senate's refusal to hold confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland after Obama nominated him to the Supreme Court in March 2016. In an unprecedented move, they argued that nominations should not be confirmed during presidential election years.

But that went out the window in 2020 following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, when Republicans rushed to confirm Barrett just days before the presidential election.

In his four-year term in office, Trump was able to get three justices on the court, shifting the balance of power in conservatives' favor for years to come.

Time is running out

Protesters rallied outside the Supreme Court demanding four new seats be added.
Protesters rallied outside the Supreme Court demanding four new seats be added.  © IMAGO / NurPhoto

The speakers highlighted the urgency of the moment, with Jones saying, "This court will go further than any other in modern history in favor of the far right and the special interests that bankroll them."

Escobar agreed: "I don't trust that this court will uphold our democracy. I don’t trust that this court will stand up for the rights of women or children or families or voters in any way, shape, or form."

They pointed to SCOTUS' recent gutting of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and blocking of the pandemic-era eviction moratorium, as well as their failure to stop enforcement of Texas' six-week abortion ban, to illustrate the far-right bent of the 6-3 conservative-majority court.

With upcoming hearings on Texas' and Mississippi's abortion bans, the legality of policies that disparately impact disabled groups, and an NRA challenge to New York gun laws, many people's security and means of livelihood hang in the balance.

"Our democracy is on the line right now. Voting rights, reproductive rights, healthcare, racial justice, climate, immigration reform, DC statehood, and democracy itself are all under attack," Omar insisted.

"Thankfully, Congress is not powerless to stop this from happening," Jones added.

He called on voters to contact their elected officials and urge them to sign on to the Judiciary Act.

Cover photo: IMAGO / NurPhoto

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