Sen. Markey seeks to pack ‘illegitimate’ Supreme Court

US Sen. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, has emerged as one of the most forceful critics of the US Supreme Court after recent decisions on abortion, gun licensing, and environmental protection. Markey has called for adding four more seats to the court, to minimize its current conservative tilt.

“If a bully steals your lunch money and you don’t do anything, they’re coming back for more the next time,” Markey said on the Codcast this week. “So the Republicans stole two seats. Just imagine what they’ll do in the next ten years if we do nothing to restore the court’s balance.”

Markey has called the current court “illegitimate.” Pressed on why, Markey cited the Republican-controlled Senate’s refusal to hold hearings on Obama nominee Merrick Garland during an election year, then their decision to confirm Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett, despite the upcoming presidential election. Markey called that “absolutely a violation of the so-called McConnell rule that we wouldn’t act on a Supreme Court justice in an election year,” referring to Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“Those justices now are part of a majority which is aiming to systematically undermine the progressive decisions that have been made over two generations in our country,” Markey said.

If the court is not expanded to “reclaim” those seats, Markey said, the recent decisions “are just a preview of coming atrocities that are going to be emanating from the Supreme Court.”

Asked whether Republicans wouldn’t simply retake those added seats when they have the power to do so, Markey said, “the only alternative is to just accept the fact that for the next 15 years, right-wing Republican justices who are relatively young on the Supreme Court will undermine everything.” Markey said that could include the rights to same-sex marriage and contraception, and the authority of the FDA to regulate e-cigarettes.

Markey has also called to abolish the filibuster, the rule that requires 60 votes rather than a majority for legislation to pass the Senate. He called the procedure “arcane” and said it is “preventing the Senate from acting on the will of the American people.” “From my perspective, the filibuster is this Jim Crow relic from an earlier era that now has come to haunt our nation in the 21st century,” Markey said.

Asked why the solution to the filibuster is not bipartisanship, Markey said the problem is a Republican Party that is “within the grip of a right-wing ideology that has them terrified, and that ideology is Donald Trump.” He said there is a need to restore “balance” on the Supreme Court for now, “and maybe, just maybe, we’ll reach a day where the Republican Party returns to its senses.”

With regard to the specific court decisions, Markey said the ruling saying the EPA cannot regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants is in effect the court providing a “leaky bucket” to handle a “five alarm climate fire.”

Markey appeared with President Biden in Somerset last week, where the president announced modest executive actions to address climate change. Many environmental activists urged the president to go further, and Markey said he sees the president’s initial actions as just the beginning.

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Shira Schoenberg

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About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

He made very clear that he’s going to roll out executive action after executive action in the months to come that are going to substitute for, thus far, the failure of Congress to act to deal with the climate crisis,” he said. Markey said the US needs a strong climate policy to send a message to the world about the importance of climate change.We cannot preach temperance from a bar stool,” he said.

As the state Legislature works to update gun laws to adhere to the high court’s ruling on gun licensing, Markey said he encourages the Legislature to fill any gaps left by the court. “Massachusetts has to work to make NRA stand for not relevant anymore in American politics. We should be the leader,” he said.

On abortion, Markey said, the US is in “dark times,” and he is glad Gov. Charlie Baker and the Legislature are taking steps to legally protect abortion providers who serve women who travel from other states. Massachusetts must be a safe harbor for people across the country who are being denied the care they seek in their home states,” Markey said. “It’s a simple fact that we need more pro-choice governors and state legislatures to protect abortion access after this decision. But I think our Legislature is showing the way.”