Senate Republicans on Thursday said they’ll defeat any Democratic attempt to alter the Supreme Court’s nine-justice structure, and told the high court to not be “cowed” by political threats from some Democrats who threatened the restructuring if future rulings don’t turn out their way.
All 53 GOP senators signed onto the letter to the clerk of the Supreme Court making clear the calls for court-packing, which have also been advanced by some Democratic presidential candidates, will go nowhere.
“We share Justice Ginsburg’s view that ‘nine seems to be a good number.’ And it will remain that way as long as we are here,” they wrote in the letter drafted by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The letter was a response to a court brief filed earlier this month by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and other Democrats who told the justices not to hear a gun-rights case out of New York.
The Democrats said the court is too damaged and seen as too partisan to be effective, and warned that taking the gun case could tip the balance and force retaliation in a restricting of the court. That was widely seen to be a threat to add more justices in a future Democratic administration.
“The Supreme Court is not well. And the people know it,” Mr. Whitehouse argued in his brief. “Perhaps the court can heal itself before the public demands it be ‘restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics.’ Particularly on the urgent issue of gun control, a nation desperately needs it to heal.”
GOP senators said they didn’t object to Mr. Whitehouse filing a brief with the court, but said the threat to the justices was out of bounds, and was an “assault” on judicial independence.
“It’s one thing for politicians to peddle these ideas in Tweets or on the stump. But the Democrats’ amicus brief demonstrates that their court-packing plans are more than mere pandering. They are a direct, immediate threat to the independence of the judiciary and the rights of all Americans,” the senators wrote.
The gun case involved a former New York City ordinance banning the transport of certain firearms into and out of the city.
An appeals court upheld the ordinance and gun-rights supporters appealed to the Supreme Court.
But city officials, fearing the high court would rule against them and set a new precedent for Second Amendment rights, have since repealed the ordinance, hoping to dismiss the case.
Mr. Whitehouse’s brief argued there is no reason to hear the case anymore.