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Faced with a 5-4 conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, some liberal Democrats want to pack the court to reverse the balance. Once the Democrats regain control of the White House and the Senate, so the argument goes, the new Democratic president could create enough new seats on the Supreme Court to ensure a liberal majority.
Time - Democrats - President - Franklin - Roosevelt
The last time the Democrats tried that was in 1937. President Franklin Roosevelt had just been re-elected by the largest majority in American history. He carried all but two states, Maine and Vermont, and racked up unprecedented Democratic majorities in the Senate and House.
Not since Reconstruction had the nation been so close to one-party rule. The moment had finally arrived for FDR to square off against the Supreme Court — specifically, against the aging conservatives who had thwarted him by declaring huge chunks of the New Deal unconstitutional.
FDR - Justice - Sitting - Justice - Age
So FDR proposed to appoint one new justice for every sitting justice over the age of 70. That would allow him to add six new justices to the Supreme Court, raising the number from nine to 15. Such a court, he reckoned, would uphold the New Deal.
Yet despite the fact that he was now at the flood tide of his popularity and power, FDR failed at court packing. He failed for essentially three reasons: First, many Americans — even members of his own party — were alarmed at the power that his proposal would put into the president’s hands.
Cartoon - Period - Supreme - Court - Roosevelt
One political cartoon of the period depicted what the Supreme Court would look like if Roosevelt got his way. The cartoon showed the court’s nine sitting justices in the front row, and directly behind them were the six new justices — every one of whom was a clone of FDR. People got the point.
Second, it dawned on the New...
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