Monday, September 21, 2020

Regardless of what Trump and Mitch do, the Democrats will (1) Eliminate the Filibuster, (2) Grant Statehood to D.C. and maybe P.R., (3) Expand the Lower Courts, and (4) Expand the Supreme Court [Updated] –

For some time, there has been a poorly-kept secret in Washington: as soon as the Democrats take power, they will make four power moves. To date, most prudent Democrats have refused to discuss these four moves aloud. But now with Justice Ginsburg's death, the cat is out of the bag. Jeffrey Toobin lays out the roadmap in the New Yorker:

The question is whether the Republican Senate will violate its supposed principles from 2016 to push one of them through. If the answer is yes—if Trump fills the Ginsburg seat—the next question will be how the Democrats respond. If the Democrats fail to retake the majority in the Senate in November, their options are few except to grin and bear it. But, if they win the majority and Joe Biden wins the Presidency, there are four major possibilities for retribution—which all happen to be good policy as well.

  • The first is the abolition of the filibuster, which should have happened decades ago. Even in the minority, McConnell will do everything he can to thwart Biden, and the filibuster will be the tool. This antidemocratic relic should be retired once and for all.
  • Second, statehood for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, with two senators apiece, would be another appropriate rejoinder.
  • Third, Congress should pass a law expanding the number of lower-court federal judges; that number has not increased since Jimmy Carter was President.
  • Finally, the greatest and most appropriate form of retribution involves the Supreme Court itself. The number of Justices is not fixed in the Constitution but, rather, established by statute.

If Republicans succeed in stealing two seats—the Scalia and Ginsburg vacancies—the Democrats could simply pass a law that creates two or three more seats on the Supreme Court. To do so would be to play hardball in a way that is foreign to the current Senate Democrats. But maybe, in light of all that's happened, that's a game they should learn to play.

I disagree with only one of Toobin's predictions. He writes that the these outcomes are "possibilities" "if Trump fills the Ginsburg seat." Argle bargle. These steps will happen no matter what Trump and Mitch do.


Josh Blackman.

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