COLUMBUS – Republican Gov. Mike DeWine wants the number of U.S. Supreme Court justices to remain at nine, rejecting a push from some Democrats to expand the court.
DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Tuesday that they backed a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would state: “The Supreme Court of the United States shall be composed of nine Justices.” The effort is called the "Keep Nine" amendment.
"Over the years, efforts to alter the composition of the court have always been met with skepticism by the American people of attempting to politicize the court," DeWine said in a statement. "Keeping the number of justices at nine enshrined in the Constitution will prevent any political party from tampering with the court for political gain."
The topic of expanding the U.S. Supreme Court to include more than nine justices – often called court-packing – has always been divisive. The number of justices, which is currently set by Congress, hasn't changed since former President Ulysses S. Grant added two justices.
Progressive Democrats recently introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to expand the Supreme Court to 13 justices, blunting the effect of former President Donald Trump's appointees. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she wouldn't bring it to the floor for a vote, effectively killing the effort's chances of becoming law.
President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has formed a commission to study possible changes to the Supreme Court over the next six months.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park, has been critical of any move to expand the U.S. Supreme Court.
"I continue to believe partisan moves to alter the makeup of the court would irrevocably damage its reputation as an independent branch of the government," Portman said.
DeWine's decision to back the "Keep Nine" amendment is an unusual move for the Republican governor, who has largely eschewed weighing in on federal topics. His announcement came one day after Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley announced a Democratic bid for governor.
"Gov. DeWine's focus on national issues, while our state faces multiple crises, is nothing more than political grandstanding and an attempt by his campaign to distract voters," Whaley spokeswoman Courtney Rice said. "Rather than engaging in theoretical debates, he should be focused on addressing the real issues facing Ohioans starting with the massive corruption scandal in his own backyard."
DeWine and Husted currently have no Republican primary challengers, but that could change. Former U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and current Rep. Warren Davidson are considering bids.