Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) conducts a news conference after the Senate Republican Policy luncheon in the Hart Building on Tuesday, July 21, 2020. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) conducts a news conference after the Senate Republican Policy luncheon in the Hart Building on Tuesday, July 21, 2020. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

It's Time to Unpack the Court

Mitch McConnell has been packing the federal courts for six years now, and, as a result, the nation is calling out for rebalancing.

Thom Hartmann

Donald Trump was bragging a week or so ago that Obama had “left me 128 judges to fill” as if Obama was just sloppy. The actual number was 105, but Obama didn’t “leave” them; he’d appointed genuinely qualified people, many women and minorities, to fill every single one of those judicial slots, and Mitch McConnell simply blocked them in the senate for the last two years of the Obama presidency.
 
McConnell even blocked Obama’s appointment of a brilliant Black attorney, Myra Selby, to the Seventh Circuit Court just to keep the seat open for Amy Coney Barrett, who now occupies that stolen seat in her first job as a federal judge.
 
McConnell also blocked Obama’s appointment of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court nearly a year before the election so rightwing hack Neil Gorsuch could get the seat instead, as soon as Donald Trump was sworn in.
 
As a result, Trump and McConnell have gotten over 200 federal judges and two Supreme Court Justices through the Senate, meaning over a quarter of all federal judges have been packed into our court system by Trump and virtually 100% of them have been straight and white, the overwhelming majority men.
 
This is court-packing on a scale that is nearly unprecedented, and refusing to even hold hearings on Judge Garland is totally unprecedented.
 
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln wanted to get a solid vote on the court against slavery, so he and his Republican colleagues who controlled the Senate and the House increased the number of Supreme Court justices all the way up to 10.
 
Two years later, when Lincoln was assassinated and slaveholder Andrew Johnson became president, Congress reduced the size of the Court specifically to deny Johnson an opportunity to appoint any justices.
 
After Johnson left office, Republican President Ulysses Grant oversaw Congress increasing the size of the Supreme Court back up to nine.
 
Similarly, after the brutal “Revolution of 1800“ election, President Thomas Jefferson increased the size of the Court so that he could put a new justice on it after former President John Adams, during the lame duck session, had packed the federal judiciary on his way out of office.
 
During times of national crisis, changing the composition of the Court by changing the number of justices has been done repeatedly.
 
Court packing and unpacking have a long tradition in America.
 
Mitch McConnell has been packing the federal courts for six years now, and, as a result, the nation is calling out for rebalancing.
 
Biden and Harris need to stop avoiding the question and point out that six years of unprecedented partisan actions by Mitch McConnell have left our courts, particularly our Supreme Court, badly out of balance.
 
There are a variety of ways to restore that balance, and all need to be examined, including blocking the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett and increasing the size of the Supreme Court.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

GOP 'Silence Speaks Volumes,' Says Ilhan Omar as Boebert's Bigotry Goes Unpunished

"Normalizing this bigotry not only endangers my life but the lives of all Muslims. Anti-Muslim bigotry has no place in Congress."

Brett Wilkins ·


Africans Should Be 'Applauded, Not Punished,' Say Advocates Amid Omicron Travel Ban

"What is going on right now is inevitable," said African Union Vaccine Delivery Alliance co-chair Dr. Ayoade Alakija. "It's a result of the world's failure to vaccinate in an equitable, urgent, and speedy manner."

Brett Wilkins ·


Biden Drilling Report Blasted as 'Shocking Capitulation to the Needs of Corporate Polluters'

"Greenlighting more fossil fuel extraction, then pretending it's OK by nudging up royalty rates, is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic," said one campaigner.

Jessica Corbett ·


UNESCO Members Adopt First Global AI Ethics Agreement 'To Benefit Humanity'

"We're at a critical juncture in history," said Ethics in Tech founder Vahid Razavi. "We need as humans to come together and decide what is the best course of action to take with these technologies before they surpass us in their abilities."

Brett Wilkins ·


Progressive US Lawmakers Mark Black Friday With Calls to Pass the PRO Act

"The right to organize, fight for better working conditions, and fair pay must always be protected."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo