With Mitch McConnell determined to ram through a vote if not a confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice in spite of his saying back in 2016 that “the people should decide”, the Democrats are readying their weapons should he actually go through with this. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said they have “many arrows in their quiver”, and Senate Minority Leader has said that if the Republicans go through with it, then when – as is likely – the Democrats take control of the Senate, “nothing is off the table”.
What does that mean? There are quite a few things the Democrats can do in response.
First, there’s the delaying tactic of impeachment. When Articles of Impeachment are submitted to the Senate, all other work stops there while the Articles are considered. Now it’s going to be pretty certain that McConnell will either ignore them or rush them through, but there are still procedures that must be followed. As to who gets impeached, well, it’s not likely that anyone would agree to impeach Trump again – even if he deserves it. There’s talk of impeaching Attorney General William Barr for his gross abuse of power and acting more like the president’s personal attorney than the people’s attorney that the position calls for. But if Biden wins the election (as is likely), then Barr is out of a job come January, so impeaching him would be seen rightly as petty and vindictive.
What about Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf? There’s already considerable doubt as to the legality of his appointment, and in any case, he’s been an “acting” secretary far longer than you’d want for what is clearly a temporary appointment.
What if the stalling tactics fail, and a reactionary conservative who is clearly unsuited for the position gets shoved through the Senate and on to the Supreme Court? Assuming the Democrats win control of the Senate in the election, there’s a lot they can do come January.
First, there’s a serious push to grant statehood to the District of Columbia. There are some 700,000 Americans living there who have no representatives in Congress. That’s more than Vermont and Wyoming, and almost as many as Alaska. A bill for statehood would sail through a Democrat-controlled Congress. Once signed by President Biden, that would add two more people to the Senate – and given the constituency of the District, they’d almost certainly be Democrats.
There’s also the possibility of statehood for Puerto Rico – they have a referendum on it on this year’s ballot. The last time they voted on it was in 2017. There were some serious problems with that vote. Only about 23% of their electorate voted – but 97% of those voters were in favor of statehood. There are about three million American citizens living in Puerto Rico – on par with Arkansas and Mississippi. Statehood would mean two more Senators and four representatives – and they’d likely be Democrats.
Those are justifiable by any stretch of the imagination. Making Guam and the US Virgin Islands – and even other territories – into states is pushing it. Maybe the US Virgin Islands can be included in the State of Puerto Rico; and all our Pacific territories can be combined into one state or added to Hawaii. But that’s something for consideration further down the line.
There are also needed reforms to the makeup of Congress that would bring it more in line with the population. The total number of representatives should be enlarged so that the apportionment can better reflect the population of the states. One cannot make the House so large that it becomes unwieldly, but a few more seats would be an improvement.
The Senate could use some procedural tweaks, too. It’s going to be very difficult to get rid of the “every state gets two Senators” rule – you’d almost certainly need a constitutional amendment to change that. Adding a “weight” to a senator’s vote based on their state’s population is also likely to be a nonstarter. But one certainly can change voting rules (like the filibuster, for example) to end the “tyranny of the minority” that keeps anything from being done. Putting in some hard and fast rules governing the confirmation of appointments would be a no-brainer.
As far as correcting the Republican’s stacking of the courts, the first and easiest thing to do is to expand the federal and appellate court systems. They’re overworked anyway, and such an expansion can readily be justified on that basis.
The last thing that should be done is a packing of the Supreme Court. While there is nothing that specifies how many Supreme Court justices there should be, it’s become ingrained in our minds that the number is nine. When FDR was frustrated with the Supreme Court knocking down his “New Deal” programs, he proposed adding up to six new justices. Even his fellow Democrats opposed that move! Most other attempts to reform the Supreme Court (such as limiting the Justices to fixed terms) would likely require a constitutional amendment. None of them would go over well.
The most important – and effective – thing anyone can do if they hate the craven hypocrisy of the Senate Republicans is to vote Democrat. Not just for president and Congress, but all the way down the ballot. There’s a census going on, which means it’s time for another redistricting. And it’s the individual state governments who appoint the commissions that draw the lines……