COLUMBUS, Ohio – U.S. Senate contender Jane Timken has formally signed onto efforts in support of a constitutional amendment to keep the number of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court at nine as the political left again attempts to expand the court’s membership.
Timken’s statement follows the recent U.S. Supreme Court “shadow docket” ruling not to immediately block a Texas law restricting abortion to the first six weeks has revived calls from political progressives to put more justices on the court beyond the nine set by tradition since 1869. The so-called “court-packing” tactic, first threatened in the 1930s New Deal era, gained favor among the political left a few years ago as former President Donald Trump placed three conservative/libertarian justices on the court.
“Every time Democrats lose, they try to rig the game,” Timken said in a news release. “With the recent victory for life in Texas, Democrats have renewed their radical court-packing calls because they want to erode our God-given rights of life, liberty, speech and the to bear arms.”
Timken’s position on supporting the codification of nine justices through a constitutional amendment goes back to fall 2020 when she served as chairwoman of the Ohio Republican Party and as a candidate in mid-April when U.S. Senate and U.S. House Democrats introduced legislation to increase the number of justices to 13.
Another GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate, businessman and tech investor J.D. Vance, on July 19 announced support of the “Keep Nine” movement about three weeks after officially joining the race. At that time, he said, “The Democrats are trying to undermine and radically transform our nation’s highest court, which is one of the pillars of our democracy.”
The campaign on September 8 reiterated the “candidate’s stance on the issue remains solid.”
“In light of the Supreme Court decision to uphold the Texas bill that will save countless babies’ lives,” the statement reads, “it is critical that we fight against any Democrat court-packing scheme.”
Ohio businessman Mike Gibbons, another candidate for the GOP Senate nomination, also voiced support for the constitutional amendment approach.
“The Supreme Court’s recent decision is a win for the pro-life movement,” Gibbons’ statement reads.
Another Senate candidate, Josh Mandel, also said he supports the proposed amendment. “It’s an essential tool in the fight against the far left’s agenda … to push their radical liberal agenda and fundamentally change our country,” Mandel’s statement reads.
U.S. Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH-13) who is running for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat, did not return an email seeking comment before deadline.
Timken called out Ryan as a “rubber stamp for Democrat power grabs” in her statement.
“While Ryan dodges and hides on court-packing,” Timken’s statement reads, “Ohio voters deserve to know: Does he support Democrat efforts to pack the U.S. Supreme Court?”
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who will not seek re-election for a third term in November 2022, had blasted the Judiciary Act of 2021 in April. That legislation seeks to add four members to the high court.
President Biden, who has skirted a clear position on adding justices, earlier this year formed the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States to study the expansion of the court and forcing justices to retire at an age uncertain.
Justices now serve lifetime appointments, or until they voluntarily retire.
U.S. Senator Brown (D-OH) has taken a wait-and-see approach on the issue.
“Senator Brown wants our country to reflect the makeup of our country,” a statement sent to The Ohio Star reads, “and he wants to see what recommendations come from President Biden’s Commission on the Supreme Court.”
While the constitutional amendment route has gained favor among many Republicans, at least one candidate for Portman’s job declined to voice support for the proposed amendment.
Suburban Columbus businessman and GOP Senate candidate Mark Pukita downplayed the issue’s significance given the current political turmoil in Washington, D.C.
“It’s not an issue worth our country’s time,” he said in a text to The Star. “We have much more important things to focus on.”
He noted it takes years to get any amendment through the process, whether it begins with a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress or at a national convention called by two-thirds of the state legislatures. Three-fourths of the states must then ratify the amendment for it to become part of the U.S. Constitution.
Court-packing “is not going to happen at this time,” Pukita said in the text. “Democrats have a slim majority, and (President) Joe Biden’s negatives are climbing like an F-15 with afterburners lit.”
Roman Buhler, director of the nonprofit Madison Coalition helping drive the Keep Nine Amendment, said 2o Republican U.S. senators have joined as co-sponsors of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)’s Senate Joint Resolution 9, plus three more senators not listed as co-sponsors. The companion House Joint Resolution 11 from Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD-01), has 180 GOP co-sponsors.
Democrats who had supported the amendment a year ago have not signed onto the measure reintroduced with the start of the new Congress in January.
Buhler noted the Ohio House of Representative, in a 60-34 party-line vote, passed House Resolution 57 in June urging Congress to resist the expansion of the Supreme Court and asking Biden to dissolve the commission. The Ohio Senate version in support of the Keep Nine Amendment, Senate Concurrent Resolution 2, has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
He said a September 2020 poll from McLaughlin & Co. showed public support for the amendment at 68 percent to 17 percent.
“We think the Keep Nine amendment is a key issue,” Buhler said, “to what happens in 2022.”
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