Politics Court-packing and filibuster elimination threats put Democratic candidates in tough spots
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Democratic Senate candidates find themselves maneuvering around questions about the party's threats toover President's Trump's weeks before the election.
Some Democrats have said it's necessary to expand the composition of the Supreme Court from nine, where it has stood since 1869, to around 11 justices. The idea is to dilute the 6-3 conservative majority expected on the bench once a replacement is confirmed for the, who died on Friday.
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death has left the Supreme Court shorthanded during a polarizing presidential campaign in which President Donald Trump has already suggested he may not accept the outcome and the court could be called on to step in and decide the fate of the nation. It's the second time in four years that a justice has died during an election year, though that eight-justice court was not asked to referee any election disputes in 2016. Today, both sides have armies of lawyers ready to take the outcome to court.
The change would only be enacted, possibly, if Democratic nominee Joe Biden beats President Trump and Democrats win a Senate majority. Republicans now have a 53-47 edge in the chamber. Legislation to expand the Supreme Court could only make it through the legislative process if Democrats eliminate the Senate filibuster, which effectively forces proposals to pass with support from 60 of the 100 senators.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York has alluded to the court-packing and filibuster elimination ideas obliquely.
“Everything is on the table. My Senate Democratic colleagues and candidates know America needs some change, and we're going to figure out the best way to do it,” Schumer told reporters Tuesday during a weekly press conference.
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But some congressional Democrats have been more adamant about moving forward with the plans in early 2021, including Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler.
That has put some Democratic Senate candidates in a tight spot, under pressure from Republican criticisms of the filibuster and Supreme Court proposals.
on Tuesday attempted to get a response on court-packing from Colorado Democrat John Hickenlooper, the state’s former governor who is challenging Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in a tight race. However, Hickenlooper refused to give his stance.
“I’m not going to answer your question, just because I can’t believe they’re going to go through with this,” Hickenlooper said when asked if he thought his party should expand the court in response to Trump filling the vacant seat before the election.
Iowa Democratic Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield, Republican Sen. Joni Ernst’s opponent,broadly about both issues at the Greater Des Moines Partnership forum but did not take firm stances on one particular side of either matter.
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“I wouldn't say that I have formed an opinion on that. But that's certainly not high-priority for me, and it's not something that Iowans are certainly talking about at this point in time," Greenfield said of expanding the number of justices on the court. “They're talking about healthcare. They know that healthcare is at stake at the Supreme Court.”
Six other Democrats running for the Senate said that theythe court, including Sara Gideon, a Maine Democrat running against Republican Sen. Susan Collins.
“I'll evaluate any proposals based on whether they'll help us return the judiciary to an independent body free from politics," Gideon said. "At this time, I have doubts that expanding the Supreme Court would do that.”
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The House's stake in filibuster reform .
Senators might complain about the problems of the filibuster, but they also relish the advantage it affords them over the House.Historically, requiring a supermajority to end Senate debate was intended to provide the minority at least one step in the legislative process to flex its muscle and force concessions. But the filibuster no longer is employed to address the minority's understandable frustration at being at a legislative disadvantage. Filled with what former Sen. Byron Dorgan described as "100 human brake pads," the current filibuster doesn't pause the process to allow the minority to engage; it kills the process dead in its tracks.