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Keep Nine, America Fine
An Op-ed piece by Rishi Kumar and Kansen Chu

We are Democrats and we are engaged in addressing America’s top challenges: Restoring jobs lost during the Covid crises, ensuring that every American gets affordable health care and providing support to those most vulnerable are ideas we champion.

We believe in protecting our Democracy from those who abuse their power to undermine it.

That is accomplished through an independent U.S. Supreme Court that can serve as a credible check and balance on any power-hungry group that may one day win control of Washington. Recently, Bukele removed all five justices of the El Salvador Supreme Court giving him de facto control over all three branches of government. We don’t ever want to see that in America.

And that's why we agree with the simple logic of President Joe Biden who, in 2019, said “I would not get into court packing. We add three justices; next time around, we lose control, they add three justices. We begin to lose any credibility the court has at all.” This cycle would continue until the Supreme Court lost all integrity.

That is why we support the “Keep Nine” Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would ensure that no political party, now or in the future, could use their power to manipulate the size of the Supreme Court for political advantage.

The “Keep Nine” Amendment simply states:

“The Supreme Court of the United States shall be composed of nine Justices.”

We should be proud that it was first introduced in Congress by a Democrat; Representative Collin Peterson of MN. It now has the support of more than 500 current and former elected officials around the United States.

Polling shows that voters - both Democrats and Republicans - would overwhelmingly back the Amendment by a 62-18% percent margin.

Some Democrats argue that since Republicans abused their power to appoint and confirm two conservative Justices to the Supreme Court, Democrats should retaliate by expanding the size of the Court.

But President Biden's close advisor and White House Counsel to President Obama Bob Bauer had it right in 2018 when he said: “Court packing would only aid President Donald Trump and politicians of his ilk in legitimizing attacks on institutions that are unresponsive to political preference”.

Packing the Court leads to the dilution of its standing and weakens our Constitution, we must stand together to stop the erosion of the strength of our union.

Democrats who care about protecting the rights of unpopular minorities, of preserving the right to privacy against government intrusion, and who believe that America should be governed by the rule of law, not by the whim of an aspiring authoritarian, should ensure that no future President or their allies in Congress can ever pack and undermine the independence of the Supreme Court.

America should be a beacon of light for emerging democracies around the world, especially those faced with authoritarian leaders undermining the independence of their courts. America needs to continue to stand as an international pillar of democracy by strengthening our judiciary system.

Some short-sighted Democrats are trying to use Court Packing as a litmus test for Democrats in 2022. That would be a catastrophic mistake. The strength of our Union is not a partisan issue, it is the core of our democracy. We do agree though that term limits should be enforced and will help preserve the sanctity of our judicial system.

We applaud Democratic Senate candidates for 2022 like Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire, Mark Kelly in Arizona, Michael Bennet in Colorado, and Catherine Cortez Mastio in Nevada, who have expressed their strong reservations about expanding the size of the Supreme Court.

However, Democrats need to do more than just say they oppose Court packing today. To reassure voters that we are sincere, we must make it clear that we oppose Court packing permanently and that we support a Constitutional Amendment to make sure it never ever happens, no matter which party is in control.

We are fortunate to have two pragmatic liberal Supreme Court Justices on our side. Current Justice Stephen Breyer recently warned of the dangers of Court packing. Former Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, in the famous interview where she opposed Court packing, said of the number of Justices: “Nine is a good number.” She was right.

In 100 years our successors will look back on our time and either thank us for preserving an independent Supreme Court, or wish we had. Let us not disappoint them and do the right thing for America.

We urge Democrats to join us in endorsing the Keep Nine Amendment to preserve an independent Supreme Court.

Rishi Kumar is a candidate for United States Congress, and a Democratic candidate challenging Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA-16) in the 2024 election. Kansen Chu is a former assemblymember of California.