supreme reforms
September 25, 2020

A handful of Democrats are trying to fix America's increasingly polarizing Supreme Court nomination process.

On Friday, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) released a draft bill introducing a number of reforms to the Supreme Court, including term limits for justices and changes to how presidents appoint them. Reps. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.) are expected to sponsor the bill along with Khanna, the chair of the House Progressive Caucus, when they formally introduce it next week.

Among Khanna's proposals is an 18-year term limit for justices on the Supreme Court. Current justices wouldn't have to step down, but each president would get two appointments to the bench per term regardless of how many justices there already are. Presidents would make their nominations during the first and third years of their terms, and the Senate would have to approve them as always. But if the Senate doesn't consider a nominee within 120 days, like what happened with former President Barack Obama's nominee Merrick Garland, they'd automatically join the court.

Khanna's proposal doesn't actually suggest pushing the court beyond nine justices. If a president's time to nominate comes up and the court is full, the longest-serving justice would become a "senior justice" with limited duties. They would also be rotated into service in lower courts and could rejoin the Supreme Court if a vacancy unexpectedly arises.

The bill will likely face a good deal of opposition, including from those who say term limits can't be implemented without a constitutional amendment. That's part of the reason why current justices won't be subject to many of the proposed new rules. Kathryn Krawczyk

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