Congressman Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y. 17th District), is leading the charge in the legislature to push back against what he called a "far-right" and "activist" Supreme Court. The progressive Democrat has co-sponsored a bill to add four new seats to the highest court in the land, which would be the first such expansion since 1869.
He's also the first member of Congress to call on 82-year-old Justice Stephen Breyer, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, to retire when the Court wraps up its term in June.
"There is no question that Justice Breyer, for whom I have great respect, should retire at the end of this term," Jones told Cheddar. "My goodness, have we not learned our lesson?"
The representative noted that he wanted to avoid the situation that followed the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — a progressive champion who many expected to retire under President Barack Obama — in which President Donald Trump was able to appoint a right-wing justice in her place.
Longer-term, however, Jone stressed that expansion is necessary to rebalance the court.
"Court expansion is something that is deeply rooted in the American tradition. The size of the court has changed seven times in our nation's history," Jones said. "Now in the year 2021, with our democracy hanging by a thread due to the far-right 6-3 supermajority on the Supreme Court of the United States, we must expand the court in order to save our democracy."
The impact of the court's ideological makeup is already evident, he added, pointing to Georgia's recently passed election laws, which opponents call a return to Jim Crow-era restrictions.
"What happened in Georgia would not have been possible had Chief Justice John Roberts not gutted the heart of the Votings Right Act in the year 2013 in a decision called Shelby v. Holder."
Jones said that he was not concerned with the possibility that Republicans could use the same legal argument to pack the court in the future, claiming that Republicans already manipulated the makeup of the highest court in 2016 by refusing to even hold a hearing for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, who now serves as U.S. Attorney General, even though Obama had 14 months left in his term.
"[The GOP] cannot make the same legal arguments that I am making because they are the ones who have indeed packed the court, and we are trying to expand the court to unrig our democracy," he said.
Just proposing this legislation should send a message to the Supreme Court, he added, pointing back to the last time a Democrat attempted to expand the court.
"FDR's court expansion proposal resulted in a rogue Supreme Court that had been striking down New Deal legislation, changing its tune and immediately beginning to uphold that New Deal legislation, which today we just take for granted," he said.
The representative said he hopes to at least send a similar message today.
"I happen to believe that we will expand the court. It may not be today or tomorrow, but it will happen over time. And in the meantime, the Supreme Court should be paying notice to what Congress is doing to make sure that it is acting in the best interest of the American people."