Photo Credit: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Facebook
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), October 24, 2022.

Squad Congress Members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) are calling for changes in the Supreme Court, in the spirit of what late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was threatening to do to his Supreme Court, but with one difference: he had the votes.

AOC told CNN on Sunday that Congress must go after the Supreme Court aggressively, and use the tools at its disposal to investigate justices for potential conflicts of interest, including subpoenas and even impeachments.


“The courts, if they were to proceed without any check on their power, without any balance on their power, then we will start to see an undemocratic and, frankly, dangerous authoritarian expansion of power in the Supreme Court,” AOC said.

This was in response to at least three recent court decisions which were distinctly conservative: affirmative action, student debt forgiveness, and LGBTQ protections. Add those to last year’s cancelation of Roe v. Wade and you’ve got yourself a seriously un-progressive court there.

Regarding the debt forgiveness of students’ loans, AOC stressed that the court’s decision does not prevent President Biden from going ahead with the plan. Should Biden heed the Congresswoman’s advice, he’d have a lot to explain to Israel’s coalition members who debate an override of supreme court rulings.

But there have also been revelations of blatant cases of conflict of interest on the part of justices who belong to the court’s conservative majority. In mid-June, ProPublica reported that Justice Samuel Alito had failed to recuse himself after enjoying an all-expenses-paid fishing private jet trip to Alaska, paid for by hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer. The billionaire has been involved in 10 appeals to the Supreme Court, and Alito sat in on all of them.

ProPublica also revealed in April that Justice Clarence Thomas secretly accepted luxury trips from major GOP donor Harlan Crow. According to the report, Thomas sailed on Crow’s yachts, flew on his private jet, and is a frequent guest at Crow’s luxury resort. Thomas never disclosed those favors, estimated at close to half a million dollars. Crow and his real estate corporation firm have not had a case before the Supreme Court since Thomas’s appointment, but the court hears major cases that directly impact the real estate industry, and Crow has been conducting discussions with Thomas over the years on his yacht, jet, and resort, and so enjoyed undue influence on the justice’s views regarding his business interests.

So, AOC et al are well within their rights as members of Congress to investigate these allegations. As she tweeted on June 30: “What’s actually disturbing is the feature of the Roberts Court to accept lavish gifts from billionaires, hide that fact, & then rule in their favor.”

But the correlations to the court’s conservative-leaning decisions on major cases are unreasonable. As Chief Justice John Roberts put it recently: “It has become a disturbing feature of some recent opinions to criticize the decisions with which they Disagree.”

“I believe that if Chief Justice Roberts will not come before Congress for an investigation voluntarily, I believe that we should be considering subpoenas, we should be considering investigations, we must pass much more binding and stringent ethics guidelines where we see members of the Supreme Court potentially breaking the law, as we saw in the refusal of Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from cases implicating his wife on Jan. 6,” AOC told CNN. “There also must be impeachment on the table. We have a broad level of tools to deal with misconduct, overreach, and abuse of power.”

“The Supreme Court has not been receiving the adequate oversight necessary in order to preserve their own legitimacy,” AOC said. “And in the process, they themselves have been destroying the legitimacy of the court, which is profoundly dangerous for our entire democracy.”

Which brings us back to FDR. In 1937, after his first term in office had been marred by the Supreme Court’s repeatedly declaring unconstitutional his bills to fight the Great Depression, Roosevelt proposed the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, which would have allowed him to appoint an additional Justice for each incumbent Justice over the age of 70. There were six Supreme Court Justices over the age of 70 at the time. The size of the Court had been set at nine since 1869, and Roosevelt’s “court packing” plan ran into intense opposition, but the court received the message and started to let the president’s bills go through.

Can AOC repeat FDR’s trick? Can Biden? Is anyone in the Democratic party interested in a constitutional crisis on the eve of the 2024 election? The answer to all of the above is, not likely.

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