A little more than three months after he led the effort to overturn the 2020 election, Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley accused Democrats Thursday of seeking to retroactively overturn the 2016 election.
Hawley, a former clerk for Chief Justice John Roberts, panned a Democratic proposal to expand the U.S. Supreme Court from nine justices to 13 by arguing that it was an attempt to dilute the impact of three justices appointed to the court by former President Donald Trump during his one term in office.
“It’s a terrible idea,” Hawley told the Senate press pool. “It is a deliberate attempt to fundamentally change a core institution of American government and to overturn, effectively overturn the results of past elections. Quite openly and deliberately trying to undo the results of President Trump’s election in 2016 in terms of his ability to appoint three justices.”
The proposal to expand the court is sure to be contentious and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already indicated she has no plans to bring it to the floor for a vote.
But Hawley’s argument against the bill is particularly brazen given his lead role in challenging the results of the 2020 election.
The Missouri Republican was the first senator to announce plans to challenge President Joe Biden’s Electoral College votes, leading the unsuccessful effort to throw out Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes. Hawley also supported Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s challenge to Arizona’s 11 electors.
In the months since the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Hawley has argued that his challenge to Pennsylvania’s electors, which received heavy backlash, was not intended to change the outcome of the election
But in a Fox News appearance just two days before the riot, Hawley had presented the results as uncertain, telling host Brett Baier that whether Trump would remain president “depends on what happens Wednesday.”
The Constitution sets no specific cap on the number of the justices on the court. It fluctuated during the country’s first century, but it has remained at nine since 1869.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s attempt to expand the court in the 1930s failed.
Biden signed an executive order last week forming a commission to study the court, which could ultimately result in a proposal to either expand the number of justices or limit the number of years they can serve.
Both the commission and the bill to expand the court have drawn widespread opposition from Republicans.
Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, who is retiring at the end of this term, warned Tuesday that if Democrats succeed in expanding the court, then Republicans are likely to do the same the next time they take control of Congress and the White House.
“Eventually, if you enlarge the court and they put two or three judges on because Republicans were able to add three judges, and next time we’re in control, we add three judges because Democrats are able to add three judges,” Blunt said. “Before you know it, the court may be as big as the 36-member commission or even the United States Senate.”