New Bill Would Stop Senate From Blocking Supreme Court Pick Like It Did in 2016

Supreme Court Term Limits

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 28: An American flag is placed on a fence outside of the U.S. Capitol building on September 28, 2020 in Washington, DC. This week Seventh U.S. Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett, U.S. President Donald Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court, will begin meeting with Senators as she seeks to be confirmed before the presidential election. (Photo by Al Drago/Getty Images)

By Amy Lieu

September 29, 2020

“Recent upheaval in the Court has only made it clear how much that reform is needed,” Democratic Rep. Don Beyer said.

House Democrats plan to introduce a bill on Tuesday containing a provision that would prevent the Senate from delaying action on a Supreme Court nomination for more than 120 days.

Reps. Ro Khanna (CA), Joe Kennedy III (MA), and Don Beyer (VA) are co-sponsors of the Supreme Court Term Limits and Regular Appointments Act of 2020.

“If the Senate does not exercise its advice and consent authority with respect to a President’s nominee to the Supreme Court within 120 days after the nomination, the Senate shall be deemed to have waived its advice and consent authority with respect to such nominee, and the nominee shall be seated as a Justice of the Supreme Court,” the provision states.

Khanna, chair of the House Progressive Caucus, said the bill “would save the country a lot of agony and help lower the temperature over fights for the court that go to the fault lines of cultural issues and is one of the primary things tearing at our social fabric.”

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In a statement released on Friday, Khanna said: “It’s time to standardize and democratize the Supreme Court.”

On March 16, 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the seat on the court previously held by the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold hearings on Garland’s nomination or even meet with the judge.

Nearly seven months elapsed between Garland’s nomination and the 2016 presidential election.

This year, Donald Trump, McConnell, and Senate Republicans hope to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett less than two months before the November election.

The House bill aims to reduce bitter partisan fighting over Supreme Court nominations with an 18-year term limit for justices.

The new limit would not apply to justices who are already confirmed and seated on the court.

Justices who finish serving their 18-year term would be designated “senior justices” and would then be rotated to serve on lower courts. Should there be a Supreme Court vacancy, “senior justices” could be assigned to serve on the court until a replacement is confirmed.

“We can’t face a national crisis every time a vacancy occurs on the Supreme Court,” Khanna said. “No justice should feel the weight of an entire country on their shoulders. No president should be able to shift the ideology of our highest judicial body by mere chance.”

Beyer said: “Recent upheaval in the Court has only made it clear how much that reform is needed.”

Published with permission from The American Independent Foundation. 


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