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Marco Rubio plans constitutional amendment involving SCOTUS. Here's everything you need to know.


It would stop Democrats in their tracks

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

As Democrats face the reality that President Donald Trump may leave a generational impact on the Supreme Court, some Democratic leaders have publicly suggested reforming the high court to reduce presidential power in dictating the court's ideological makeup.

Now Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has a plan to stop Democrats in their tracks with a new constitutional amendment.

What are the details?

In an op-ed for Fox News, Rubio explained that for a "divided nation [to] overcome corrosive tribalism," principled leaders must stop the intentional deterioration of fundamental American institutions like the Supreme Court.

"To this end, I am proposing a constitutional amendment to prevent the next political and cultural flashpoint: the packing of the Supreme Court for partisan gains," Rubio wrote.

Rubio said his amendment, with the sole purpose of preventing "the delegitimizing" of the court, will keep the number of seats on the high court at nine.

"There is nothing magical about the number nine. It is not inherently right just because the number of seats on the Supreme Court remains unchanged since 1869. But there is something inherently good and important about preventing the further destabilization of essential institutions," Rubio explained.

The Florida lawmaker went on to emphasize the importance of restoring public trust in bedrock American institutions, which Democrats are delegitimizing by exploiting rampant political tribalism.

"Our nation may not be on the brink of civil war or dissolution, but we are suffering a crisis of confidence and we cannot withstand further erosion of trust in one another and our institutions," Rubio said. "The rhetoric used by some of my Democratic colleagues that suggests our institutions are increasingly unable to resolve modern society's conflicts is dangerous."

"The perceived illegitimacy of institutions — from local election boards all the way up to the Supreme Court — threatens to undermine the very nature of our nation," he added. "These institutions are the way Americans traditionally mediate disputes among a very diverse population. We must fight to maintain and restore them."

Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.) plans to introduce a sister bill in the House.

What is court packing?

The idea of court packing is not new. In fact, former President Franklin Roosevelt (D) sought to reform the court. However, his efforts were in bad faith; he only sought reform to, as Rubio explained, "appoint additional justices who would not stand in the way of his ambitious political agenda."

Today, the same motive empowers Democrats. It gained steam in progressive circles in 2016 after Merrick Garland, former President Barack Obama's nominee to replace Antonin Scalia on the court, was not given a single hearing in the Senate. Then, after Trump successfully placed two conservative justices on the court — Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — court packing went mainstream in the Democratic Party.

So much so, in fact, that major candidates running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination are now publicly advocating for court packing. As Rubio noted, Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) have sought to delegitimize the court after Trump's successful appointments. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has accused Republicans of "stealing" court seats and said "all options are on the table" once Democrats regain executive power, a vague reference to court packing.

Meanwhile, other Democratic presidential candidates like South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Beto O'Rourke have suggested placing five conservative justices and five progressive justices on the court, who then collectively choose another five justices, according to The Hill.

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