Mitrano, Reed Agree On U.S. Supreme Court Issues
Editor’s Note: This is the third part of a three-part debate between candidates for the New York State 23rd Congressional District.
It might be difficult to believe, but the challenger for the New York State 23rd Congressional District, Tracy Mitrano, D-Penn Yan, and incumbent Tom Reed, R-Corning, actually agree on a couple issues when it comes to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Earlier this month, both candidates were asked during a debate at The Post-Journal their thoughts on the possibility of “packing the court” and both weren’t in favor of the notion.
Reed said nine members on the court has served the country well since 1869.
For the first 80 years of the court, the number of justices fluctuated. The U.S. Constitution established the Supreme Court, but left it to Congress to decide how many justices should make up the court. The Judiciary Act of 1789 set the number at six: a chief justice and five associate justices. In 1807, Congress increased the number of justices to seven. In 1837, the number was bumped up to nine, and in 1863, it rose to 10. In 1866, Congress passed the Judicial Circuits Act, which shrank the number of justices back down to seven. Three years later, in 1869, Congress raised the number of justices to nine, where it has stood ever since.
In 1937, in an effort to create a court more friendly to his New Deal programs, President Franklin Roosevelt attempted to convince Congress to pass legislation that would allow a new justice to be added to the court–for a total of up to 15 members–for every justice over 70 who opted not to retire. Congress didn’t approve FDR’s plan.
“When it comes to packing the court, I obviously don’t support that,” Reed said. “I think if you’re going to nullify the checks and balances our founding fathers put in place … that is a very slippery slope to go down”
Mitrano also agrees that packing the court is not a good idea.
“It was not our founders’ notion that the Supreme Court be the place where the major policy decisions about this country take place,” she said. “That body, that branch is Congress.”
Mitrano said because Congress fails to act, policy decisions like abortion have been made by the U.S. Supreme Court. She said other major policy decisions like immigration, affordable health care and an additional stimulus package to assist the American people should be done by Congress, but haven’t been approved.
“It is the role of Congress to address major policy issues,” she said. “Mr. Reed has voted against (these proposals) and has not come up with an alternative plan.”
Mitrano said, if elected, she will work to pass the policies that will help people in the country and in the district.
“I want to bring that change to Congress and to the people of this district, and Mr. Reed has demonstrated he cannot,” she said. “It’s time, however, for our legislature to wake up and do their job, and I’m afraid that is precisely where Mr. Reed has failed. We need new blood. We need change. We need people with energy, ability and vision to get to the next step instead of allowing us to just turn in this bipartisan crisis, and then smooth it over with nice talk.”
Reed agreed with Mitrano that Congress needs to take back its responsibility of being the country’s policy maker like is stated in Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution.
“There is one thing I will agree with Tracy on … Congress does need to take back its power,” he said. “That means if I can find common ground with you, then I can find common ground with anyone.”
The two, however, disagreed, on the U.S. Senate’s work to appoint a new associate justice, Amy Coney Barrett, to the court prior to Election Day. Reed said the U.S. House of Representatives was not involved in the approval process, which was voted on by the U.S. Senate, but is in favor of the new justice, who was sworn in Tuesday.
“I believe she will be an outstanding judge on the court,” he said.
Mitrano said Congress should have been more concerned about passing a new stimulus package to assist the American people than approving a new justice.
“If you’re asking my opinion how and why the Senate rushed to do that (approve a new justice) instead of passing COVID relief, I sure wish my congressman was calling from the rooftops saying that is the wrong priority at this moment,” she said.
Mitrano said she is very excited about the possibility of going to Congress.
“I think it’s very clear where Mr. Reed has failed us,” she said. “He has had 10 years to economically revive this place. He hasn’t the imagination or the will to do it. I do. I have a professional record built on results.”
Reed said being a representative is about fighting for what is right.
“I’m a proud Republican,” he said. “I believe the power of our nation rest in the people and not in the government. My opponent brings a government-centered approach to what she wants to bring to the office.”