“Court Packing” Lost Its True Meaning Under Senator Mitch McConnell

“Court Packing” Lost Its True Meaning Under Senator Mitch McConnell

When Justice Ruth Ginsberg passed away in September, Republican Sen. McConnell spearheaded another revival of the old Congressional phrase “packing the court.” This article explores information why today, the term exemplifies the polarization of Congressional lawmakers, as opposed to how Congressional lawmakers worked when the phrase was originated.

Origin of the Phrase “Packing the Court”

In understanding the divisive inference associated to the phrase “packing the court,” we must first have an idea how the language came about in American political history.

First off, it is directly related to the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937 that was proposed as legislation during the term of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). The proposed legislation aimed to give FDR the support he needed in obtaining Supreme Court Ruling, for an appeal to reverse the decisions of the two lower courts that legally declared FDR’s New Deal programs as unconstitutional.

Bill 1937 mainly focused on giving FDR the power to install an additional of up to six (6) justices to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace every SC court member who goes past the age of 70 years and 6 months while still in office. That way, during his term as president of the United States, he would have “packed the court” with Supreme Court justices who will share his points of view, particularly in relation to his New Deal programs.

Through months of delay and deliberations, it became apparent that Bill 1937 was unpopular among Democratic and Republican lawmakers that it failed to pass Congressional approval.

Death of a Supreme Court Justice in 2016 Revived the Court-Packing Issue

 

In 2016, the final year of President Obama’s second term as president, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia met an untimely demise.

However, since 2016 was also the election year when Donald Trump ran for office as next U.S. president, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked President Obama’s attempt to appoint Judge Meryll Garland as the person to take the SC seat vacated by the late Justice Scalia.

Sen. Mitch McConnell and other Republican senators passed a filibuster ruling of suspending any hearing regarding presidential nominations for the vacant SC seat. They contended that since it was election year and that a new president will be elected come November 2016, it would be best to suspend all nomination hearings until after the official election outcome.

That way, the Democratic Party through Pres. Obama, will be prevented from “packing the court” with left-leaning justices regardless of whoever wins the election.

Court Packing Issue Re-Emerges After Justice Ginsberg’s Death in an ElectionYear

The tables had turned with regard to the court-packing issue after Justice Ginsburg passed away in September, with only a few days remaining until the November presidential election. Still using his position as head of Senate, Mitch McConnel and other Republicans reversed their stance over the court-packing issue.

This time, instead of maintaining the rule they introduced in 2016, the Senate became open to conducting a hearing that will immediately place a Trump nominee to fill up Justice Ginsberg’s seat. That is despite the fact that conducting the hearing, directly opposes the 2016 filibuster rule of suspending hearings for court nominations during election year.

 

When publicly confronted by opponents and critics over the Republicans’ turnabout on court-packing issue, Senator McConnell can only offer gibberish explanations while at the same time, treating it as a laughing matter.