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Big Three of the House Judiciary Committee Study the President’s Request . . . , photograph by Harris & Ewing, February 9, 1937

President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Judicial Procedures Reform Bill faced strong resistance in Congress. Senior members of the House Judiciary Committee ensured that it never left the committee. The Senate Committee on the Judiciary recommended its rejection. After heated debate on the Senate floor, the Senate rejected the court-packing plan with a vote of 70-20.

(Pictured left to right): Representative Ulysses S. Guyer of Kansas, Representative Hatton W. Sumners of Texas, and Representative Emanuel Cellar of New York

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Big Three of the House Judiciary Committee Study the President’s Request . . . , photograph by Harris & Ewing, February 9, 1937

Congress Rejects Court Packing

President Franklin D. Roosevelt took office during the Great Depression and instituted sweeping economic regulations and reforms as “a New Deal for Americans.” With his Democratic party dominating Congress, he pushed through New Deal legislation, but the Supreme Court’s conservative majority declared many key statutes unconstitutional. In 1937 Roosevelt proposed a Judicial Procedures Reform Bill that would have allowed him to expand the Supreme Court and appoint new justices sympathetic to his agenda. Congress strongly opposed the president’s “court packing” plan.

In 1937 the Senate rejected President Roosevelt’s efforts to change the Supreme Court’s structure. Roosevelt’s proposed changes would have allowed him to pack the court with judges who supported his policies, threatening judicial independence.