By Spencer Landis
Democratic politicians locked in tight Congressional races in Southeastern PA and South Jersey are refusing to answer whether they would support packing the Supreme Court and ending the filibuster if Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wins the general election and carries the Senate along with him.
The Democratic candidates, including incumbent first-time U.S. Representatives Andy Kim and Susan Wild — both of whom carried previously Republican districts in 2018 — and Democratic challengers Amy Kennedy in South Jersey and Christina Finello in Bucks County, did not respond to repeated requests for comment from Broad + Liberty at the time of publication.
The inquiries concerned whether these candidates, if victorious, would support the possibility that Biden would add (or pack) justices to the Supreme Court and whether Biden or his running mate, Kamala Harris, should provide an answer to voters on the question before the election. Broad + Liberty’s inquiries for these candidates also concerned whether Democrats should eliminate the filibuster if they regain the Senate majority, which seems more likely than not according to FiveThirtyEight. Echoing the top of the Democratic ticket, none of them provided answers on these key questions.
The concept of packing the Supreme Court would be the most consequential change to our nation’s highest court in generations. The number of justices on the Court has remained at nine since 1868. The last time a President attempted to add justices to the Court occurred under Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, who controversially tried to expand the Court in his second term in 1937, after it struck down some laws in his New Deal, ABC News notes.
Biden has repeatedly dodged the media’s questions over whether he would expand the Supreme Court. The former Vice President has also said that voters “do not deserve” to hear his answer before the election, the Daily Caller reports.
The concept of packing the Supreme Court would be the most consequential change to our nation’s highest court in generations.
Biden indicated Monday for the first time that he is “not a fan of court packing,” but once again refused to rule it out, suggesting that “the president would love nothing better than to fight about whether or not I would in fact pack the court or not pack the court,” according to the New York Times.
The Democratic ticket similarly leaves open the possibility of ending the Senate filibuster, a procedural rule to protect against majority rule that has allowed the minority party to block one-party legislation since the 19th century. The filibuster has historically prevented one party from exerting complete majority rule over its rival and has been used famously by politicians seeking to strike down bills with long speeches and elaborate performances — though critics have maintained that it contributes to significant gridlock in Congress.
When Democrats, led by then-Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), controlled the Senate in 2013, they voted to end the filibuster for presidential nominees, a move many Democrats came to regret once Republicans gained control of Congress’ upper chamber. Republicans followed suit for Supreme Court nominees in 2018. Many leading Democrats, including former President Barack Obama, have suggested that ending the filibuster may be a necessary step if Democrats win back the presidency and Senate in November, according to the Atlantic. Such a move would be an unprecedented change to the Senate’s legislative process and leave little power to the minority party.
The Democrats who refused to comment on packing the court and ending the Senate filibuster are running in highly contested seats.
In New Jersey’s 2nd congressional district, Amy Kennedy, wife of ex-U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, leads Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew by a small margin in most recent polling. Van Drew received national attention last year when he changed his party affiliation to the GOP after the impeachment of President Trump.
Democratic Rep. Kim, who won his New Jersey seat in one of the narrowest margins in 2018 by ousting a Republican incumbent, also faces a tight race against Republican challenger David Richter, a business executive. Internal polls indicate that neither candidate has a clear advantage, according to NJ Spotlight News. In 2018, Kim’s victory was among the closest in the entire nation, in the historically Republican suburban district that has trended rapidly towards the Democrats under Trump’s tenure.
In Southeastern Pennsylvania, moderate Bucks County Republican Brian Fitzpatrick — who was one of only a handful of Republicans to hold on in Clinton-won districts in 2018’s blue wave elections — is being challenged by government employee Christina Finello. Finello, who is slightly behind in the polls, says she has a “knack for fixing what’s broken” on her website, but would not respond as to whether the current 9-member Supreme Court body is among those broken things that should be “fixed” by a Biden Administration.
Further northwest, first-time Representative Susan Wild — who snagged her longtime bellwether Lehigh Valley seat after moderate Republican Charlie Dent retired — also was mum on her support for packing the Supreme Court and eliminating the filibuster.
Spencer Landis is a student at the University of Pennsylvania studying Classics and is the president of Penn College Republicans. He is currently interning at Broad + Liberty. @sdlandis25.
Albert Eisenberg contributed to this reporting.