Phil Harriman (left) and Ethan Strimling, BDN Agree to Disagree bloggers. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

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Ethan: Last week, you surprisingly thanked me for the majority budget Democrats passed.

Phil: Listening to Democrats spinning all that spending in an election year will be interesting.

Ethan: In that spirit, let me thank U.S. Senate Minority Leader (God “minority” feels good to say) Mitch McConnell.

Phil: Say what?!

Ethan: If it weren’t for McConnell, President Joe Biden would not have created the commission to look at fixing our Supreme Court.

Phil: “Fixing” the most trusted branch of our federal government? Why would you thank McConnell for a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist?

Ethan: Were it not for his refusal to even consider President Barack Obama’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 2016, and then ramming through President Donald Trump’s nominee with milliseconds left, Biden never would have made this move. Probably the most egregious abuse of Senate power regarding the Supreme Court in our history.

Phil: Why is it that when Republicans use the power given to them in the Constitution, it is an abuse of power, but when Democrats do the same, it’s the work of angels?

Ethan: Well, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, as Albert Einstein said. In this case, had McConnell followed the custom and intent of our forebears, Merrick Garland would have been on the Supreme Court, and none of this would be happening.

Phil: Exactly, because Democrats would have their five-vote majority. So don’t pretend that this move by Biden is anything more than an attempt to pack the court with liberals. While you live in the past, let’s discuss the changes being proposed.

Ethan: There are two major proposals. Expand the court and/or limit the tenure of justices. On the first point, as background, let’s be clear that the court has expanded and shrunk half a dozen times. It started at five and got as high as 10. It landed at its current number of nine in 1869.

Phil: Where it has worked for 152 years. Tell us what is the argument to expand the court other than a partisan shift?

Ethan: More diversity and giving presidents ample opportunity to influence the court based on how our democracy evolves.

Phil: Our court has plenty of diversity. Three women, an African American, a Latina, and members of the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish faiths. In terms of giving presidents ample opportunity, nowhere does the constitution give presidents that right but regardless, every president since Ronald Reagan has appointed at least two.

Ethan: Until Trump was given three, the most for any single-term president since Warren Harding.

Phil: You need to get over your Trump-derangement-syndrome. There’s a vaccine for that. It’s called turning the page.

Ethan: OK, how about term limits? You are a supporter for the executive and legislative branches. How about the judicial?

Phil: You are going to have to be compelling for me to support that maneuver.

Ethan: The proposal most discussed is a single 18-year term in order to take the angst of “lifetime appointment” out of the process.

Phil: Somehow, I don’t think 18 years versus “lifetime” will lower the tension. Besides, the average term of a justice over the history of our country is 16 years.

Ethan: That average includes when the lifespan of Americans was literally 38 years old! With today’s life expectancy, that average of 16 years is about to start rising exponentially.

Phil: Help me understand something here. You are someone who never supports term limits, why would you support them here?

Ethan: I don’t support term limits for people in elected office, because I don’t believe you should take away the right of voters to choose their leaders. Putting a limit on the amount of time a justice can serve makes sense to me. Although I would certainly keep it to one long term.

Phil: Aside from turning the court left, I simply don’t get why you are so hell bent on politicizing the one branch of government that is able to stay above the fray, thus allowing for a long-term view.

Ethan: Because Mitch dragged it into the fray.

Phil: I thought you were thanking him?

Ethan: I take it back.