Heinrich not ruling out adding justices to Supreme Court

Try as they might, Senate Democrats don’t have the numbers to stop or even slow down the effort to seat Judge Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court.

“I think there will be a number of attempts to make this process more similar to what typically happens,” Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., told the Journal last week. “But the math is the math. And that is the limiting factor here.”

President Donald Trump has nominated Barrett to fill the seat held by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to begin Barrett’s confirmation hearings Monday. Although the Georgetown Law Library’s guide to judicial Supreme Court nominations says the committee usually takes a month to collect records from the FBI and other sources to vet the nominee, committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has said publicly that the committee will vote to approve Barrett by Oct. 22. That would give enough time to set up a full Senate vote on her confirmation before next month’s election.

“There is no other way to describe it,” Heinrich said. “There has never been this abbreviated of a process.”

There has been much speculation about how Democrats would respond if Barrett is indeed seated on the court. A Barrett nomination would mean six of the nine justices were nominated by Republicans.

During recent debates, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris dodged questions on whether they will seek to add more seats to the court.

Heinrich said such a maneuver could be in the cards.

“The number of seats on the Supreme Court is set by statute. So it is certainly something that Congress can bring up.

“I think it will be determined, in part, by how the current majority behaves with the nominee they have right now,” he said. “I think (adding justices to the court), in large part, is something we should revisit after the election after the American people have sent a more clear direction as to what they would like to see.”

Such a tactic would be unprecedented in modern times. The Judiciary Act of 1869 set the number of justices at nine.

But any such maneuver, said Heinrich, an engineer, is dependent on the math. And there are currently 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents in the Senate.

“If people want a more deliberate process for these things,” Heinrich said, “they are going to need to change the math in the United States Senate.”

EDUCATION GRANTS: New Mexico’s congressional delegation banded together to announce two grants that will be sending federal money to the state for education.

First, nearly $6 million is coming as the first installment of the U.S. Department of Education Gear Up program, which provides extra services at high-poverty middle and high schools.

The second grant is $2.6 million from the federal Expanding Access to Well-Rounded Courses Demonstration Grants Program.

The delegation said in a joint news release that the state will use the money on online career and technical education.

In July, the group wrote a letter of support to the Department of Education, saying the state’s Public Education Department was a great candidate for the grant money.

“I commend the (PED) for their innovative adaptation to online and distance learning during this unprecedented time, and for their focus on proactive workforce development that will prepare New Mexico students for a successful future,” said Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.

Ryan Boetel: rboetel@abqjournal.com


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