On this historic day, February 5, 1937, FDR announces his intention to pack the Supreme Court
On that historic day, February 5, 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced a plan to expand the Supreme Court to 15 justices.
While the 32nd U.S. president claimed the plan was to allow the nation’s highest court to operate more effectively, Roosevelt’s critics said he was trying to pack the Supreme Court, neutralizing justices “hostile to his New Deal,” as History.com notes. .
The New Deal was Roosevelt’s national program that embraced the concept of a government-regulated economy “aimed at achieving a balance between conflicting economic interests,” Britannica.com explains.
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The New Deal was designed to bring “immediate economic relief” and reforms in “industry, agriculture, finance, water power, labor and housing” to respond to the woes the Great Depression had provoked, notes this site, and would greatly increase the federal government. the activities and scope of government.
Reacting to the ineffectiveness of the administration of his predecessor Herbert Hoover in the face of the “ravaging” of the Great Depression, American voters had “overwhelmingly” voted for the idea of a New Deal for the “forgotten man” proposed by Roosevelt, also indicates this site.
The Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) were created under the New Deal to “distribute emergency and short-term government assistance” – and to provide “temporary employment, employment on construction projects and jobs for young people”. in national forests” in response to the disastrous economic effect of the Great Depression on Americans, adds Brittanica.com.
Encouraged by his re-election for a second term in 1936, FDR decided to approach the addition to the Supreme Court by emphasizing the age of the justices.
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His plan was to appoint up to six additional justices to the Supreme Court in the Court Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, according to History.com.
This would provide a full salary pension for all members of the tribunal over the age of 70.
If a judge refused to retire, an “assistant” with full voting rights would be appointed—thus ensuring Roosevelt a liberal majority.
Most Republicans and many Democrats in Congress opposed the so-called “courts rally” plan, according to History.com.
Critics of the president have claimed the conspiracy plan was a reaction to the previous two years, which had seen the High Court strike down key pieces of legislation related to the New Deal, “on the grounds that the laws delegated unconstitutional power to the executive and the federal government,” the site adds.
When Roosevelt tried to pack the court, a prominent member of his own party helped lead the victorious fight to defeat him, says the Foundation for Economic Education website.
Roosevelt’s reorganization plan was deemed unnecessary.
Sen. Burton K. Wheeler, D-Mont., said, in part, “Create a political tribunal now to echo the ideas of the executive and you have created a weapon.”
He continued: “A weapon which, in the hands of another president in time of war or other hysteria, might well be an instrument of destruction.”
“A weapon which can bring down those guarantees of freedom written in your great document by the blood of your ancestors and which can extinguish your right to freedom, of speech, of thought, of action and of religion.”
He continued, “A weapon whose use is dictated only by the consciousness of the wearer.”
In April 1937, however, before the impeachment bill had been voted on in Congress, two Supreme Court justices “sided with the liberal side and, by a narrow majority, affirmed as constitutional the national law on labor relations and the law on social security”. says History.com.
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The economy had advanced enough that federal regulation and control was now warranted, the majority opinion noted.
Roosevelt’s reorganization plan was deemed unnecessary – and in July the Senate overturned it by a vote of 70 to 22.
“Soon after, Roosevelt had the opportunity to appoint his first justice to the Supreme Court, and by 1942 all but two of the justices were his appointees,” History.com also said.
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Roosevelt, who first took office in 1933, was then nominated for an unprecedented third term. He would eventually be elected to a record four terms, the only president to serve more than two terms.
Brokerage remains a political subject today.
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Last month, Rep. Dusty Johnson, R.S.D., reintroduced his constitutional amendment titled “Keep the Nine.” Its goal is to limit the number of justices serving on the Supreme Court to nine, as its website notes.
“In recent years there have been more calls to pack the pitch or expand the pitch,” Johnson said on his site, calling it a “terrible idea.”