Jimmy’s Colorado Politics Column | Democrats prepare power grabs

Written by on April 27, 2021

All six Democrats in Colorado’s congressional delegation are walking on thin ice.  Their overt power-grabs are extraordinary.  Coloradans won’t appreciate it. 

The Democratic Congress is jolting America toward stronger one-party rule.  Last week, House Democrats approved a 100% partisan bill to make Washington, D.C. the 51st state.  H.R.51 would inevitably give Democrats two new senators and a voting member of the House.  (D.C. currently has a nonvoting representative.)

Historically, admitting new states has been done as either a political compromise or an overtly partisan tool of one party to solidify its position.

Until the 1860s, the question of whether to add a new state tended to get bogged down in a sordid slavery squabble.  That’s because the United States strived for “balance” between the number of free states and slave states.  Following the South’s secession and the onset of the Civil War in 1861, this notion of appeasing slave states was no longer necessary.  Thus, in 1864, Nevada was admitted as a free state. 

Following the Civil War, compromise for state admission went away for a time as Republicans’ partisan position improved.  Colorado was admitted in 1876 under Republican President U.S. Grant, sending two Republican senators.  Other states, including Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas and Wyoming, were later admitted to bolster Republicans. Arizona, New Mexico and Utah were delayed longer as likely Democratic states.  By 1912, America reached 48 states.

It stayed that way for 47 years, until 1959.  Alaska and Hawaii, perceived as Democratic and Republican, respectively, were admitted as states — an intentional compromise between both parties.  This was done with a Republican president and a Democratic majority in both congressional chambers. 

Now in 2021, the nation is starkly divided along partisan lines.  The Senate is literally 50/50; Democrats only have majority because Vice President Harris is one.  Partisan lines in the House are the closest in nearly 20 years.  Yet Democrats chose this moment to create State #51.  What could they possibly be up to except seizing greater power?

As the Wall Street Journal recently observed, if the goal were simply to give more people representation in Congress, they’d be pushing for more of D.C. to be returned to Maryland or Virginia, as happened to Arlington and Alexandria.  Instead, Democrats chose a 19th century power-grab strategy — and one designed to skirt numerous constitutional impediments about what D.C. really is.  (It’s a federal district expressly created to avoid reliance on any state.)

All four Colorado House Democrats — Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter, Joe Neguse and Jason Crow — voted yes.  All three Republicans — Ken Buck, Doug Lambourn and Lauren Boebert — voted nay.  The Senate version currently has 44 cosponsors — including both Michael Bennet, running for re-election, and John Hickenlooper.  Barring an end to the Senate filibuster — another possible power-grab — they’re thankfully 16 votes shy of the threshold needed for passage.

The second power-grab is to pack the U.S. Supreme Court with four new justices, as introduced through the Judiciary Act of 2021 by several leading Democrats.  While President Biden hasn’t endorsed the bill, he established a commission to examine the idea.

If approved, this would be the first Judiciary Act in 152 years to adjust the size of the Supreme Court.  In 1869, it was set to eight justices and the chief justice.  It’s been at nine ever since. 

Packing the Court is a “bonehead idea,” as Biden himself once put it.  It was summarily dismissed as “an invasion of judicial power such as has never before been attempted in this country” by Senate Democrats when Democratic President FDR tried it in 1937.

Democrats claim Republicans are “hypocritical” because they refused to hold hearings for Obama nominee Merrick Garland in 2016 and then confirmed Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett to the Court.  “That’s court packing!” they shout.  “We’re just trying to ‘rebalance’ the judiciary!”

Nonsense.  SCOTUS became nine justices in 1869.  Which justice on Trump’s “packed court” will live 152 years?  And isn’t it a president’s prerogative to nominate justices and the Senate’s to decide how to handle it?

See, court packing isn’t really about who’s currently on the Supreme Court and how they got there.  It is about fundamentally and permanently altering the makeup of SCOTUS, for short-term political gain.  There’s simply no comparison.  So said liberal Justice Breyer or the late Justice RBG.

While Colorado’s three Republicans publicly and definitively oppose this discredited idea, all six Democrats are up in the air.  Bennet previously suggested he’d oppose court packing in 2019; who knows if he still does?  Hickenlooper infamously and incessantly refused to answer throughout his 2020 campaigns.  DeGette, Perlmutter, Neguse and Crow remain silent.  In short, we don’t know what Colorado’s Democrats believe about packing the Supreme Court.

Given where they already stand on the partisan push to make D.C. a state, will our congressional Democrats — especially candidate Bennet, who’d get to vote on four theoretical new justices — please stand up with an answer?

Bueller?  Bueller?

Click here to read the rest of Jimmy’s April 27 column at Colorado Politics, a sister publication of The Washington Examiner.

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