Rep. Doug Collins says he plans to introduce a constitutional amendment to prohibit a change to the size to the Supreme Court until 10 years after enactment of any legislation that would alter the number of seats on the high court.
The legislation, which Collins, R-Ga., is set to roll out this week, comes after Democrats have threatened to pack the Supreme Court if President Trump nominates a pick to fill the vacancy left by late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
“Democrats’ latest threat to pack the Supreme Court throws our nation’s history to the wayside in pursuit of political gain and threatens the very foundation of our democracy,” Collins said in a statement Monday.
There's a high bar to passing an amendment: In order to pass, a constitutional amendment must receive approval from two-thirds of the House and Senate, as well as ratification from three-fourths of all states, or 38 out of 50.
Collins noted that since 1869, the Supreme Court has held “exactly nine seats.”
“To make a change during such a tumultuous time in our history diminishes the integrity of our nation’s highest court and sets an extremely dangerous precedent,” Collins said. “By introducing a Constitutional Amendment to prohibit any changes to the number of justices until 10 years after any such legislation is signed into law, we can protect our nation’s highest court from becoming a political football.”
Collin’s comments and proposal comes after House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., over the weekend said the incoming Senate should “immediately” expand the high court.
“If Sen. McConnell and @SenateGOP were to force through a nominee during a lame duck session – before a new Senate and President can take office – then the incoming Senate should immediately move to expand the Supreme Court,” Nadler tweeted over the weekend. “Filling the SCOTUS vacancy during a lame duck session, after the American people have voted for new leadership, is undemocratic and a clear violation of the public trust in elected officials.”
Nadler added: “Congress would have to act and expanding the court would be the right place to start.”
Just hours after learning of Ginsburg’s passing on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., vowed that a Trump nominee to the Supreme Court “will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
The president has also urged Senate Republicans to move forward in confirming his eventual nominee “without delay,” and told Fox News during an exclusive interview Monday that the confirmation should be complete before Election Day.
But Democrats in both chambers of Congress are threatening to implement a strategy and pack the Supreme Court if they take control of the White House and the Senate.
“If he holds a vote in 2020, we pack the court in 2021,” Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., tweeted Saturday. “It’s that simple.”
“Mitch McConnell set the precedent. No Supreme Court vacancies filled in an election year. If he violates it, when Democrats control the Senate in the next Congress, we must abolish the filibuster and expand the Supreme Court,” Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., tweeted.
The idea of “packing” the court with extra justices – attempted unsuccessfully by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937 to force through parts of his New Deal that were ruled unconstitutional by the high court – has bubbled away on the fringes of the party for years.
But it began to seep into the mainstream after Republicans refused to hold hearings for Merrick Garland – President Barack Obama’s 2016 pick to replace Justice Antonin Scalia – because it was an election year. Consequently, the seat was held open until after the 2017 inauguration of President Trump, who nominated now-Justice Neil Gorsuch. Many Democrats saw the seat as “stolen” as a result.
The Garland controversy has been cited by Democrats again now that Republicans are moving to fill Ginsburg's seat in an election year. They say that because Republicans refused to fill a seat in 2016, they should decline to fill this one in 2020.
Republicans, however, have said that the precedent is when the Senate is controlled by an opposition party to the White House.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw and Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.