Critics slammed left-wing news site HuffPost Friday as liars, propagandists, and worse for accusing Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, of lying when he said Senate Republicans didn’t engage in court-packing when they held the majority.
“Sen. Ted Cruz may have told his biggest lie yet with the claim that Republicans never engaged in court packing when they controlled the White House and Congress,” HuffPost tweeted.
Cruz joined Senate Republicans this week in ripping a Democratic bill that would expand the Supreme Court’s size from nine to 13, in an effort to give liberal justices a 7-6 majority with President Biden and Democrats in control of the White House and Senate.
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Calling him a “master gaslighter,” HuffPost said Cruz told a “whopper of a lie” when he said, correctly, that Republicans did not seek to expand the Supreme Court’s size in 2017 when they were the ones in control of Washington.
“We had a Republican president, a Republican Senate, and a Republican House,” Cruz said. “We didn’t do this. We could have … You didn’t see Republicans when we had control of the Senate try to rig the game. You didn’t see us try to pack the Court.”
The HuffPost’s attempt at a fact-check claimed Republicans “loved ramming judges through the system, including at least 174 district court judges and 54 appeals court judges.” It also noted, correctly, that Republicans confirmed three Supreme Court Justices nominated by President Donald Trump: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.
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At no point did HuffPost show Republicans had done anything but fill vacancies, which does not fit the definition of “court-packing.”
“HuffPost is apparently partaking in the new liberal trend to redefine words – they have erroneously conflated filling judicial vacancies with ‘court packing’ and then based on that conflation, accused Sen. Cruz of gaslighting. It’s patently absurd and if anyone’s guilty of gaslighting, it’s the editors at HuffPost,” a spokesman for Cruz told Fox News.
The term refers to a failed effort first undertaken by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to expand the size of the Supreme Court from 9 to 15 judges. Biden, when he was in the U.S. Senate, referred to Roosevelt’s ploy as a “bonehead idea.”
Critics unloaded on HuffPost’s framing of the issue, accusing the site of gaslighting themselves, lying, and engaging in propaganda.
HuffPost did hit then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for holding up the nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016. Senate Republicans never gave Garland a hearing, and when Trump was elected, he nominated Gorsuch to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
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The current size of the court was set by the Judiciary Act of 1869. It would not be unconstitutional for Democrats to pass legislation to expand its size, although court-packing efforts consistently do not poll well.
HuffPost’s effort to redefine the term comes as Democrats have similarly accused Republicans of “court packing,” partly in protest of the rapid confirmation process of Barrett last year to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat.
“The American people have watched the Republicans packing the court for the past three and a half years,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told NBC’s “Meet the Press” in October.
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Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., also said at the time on “Fox News Sunday” that the Barrett confirmation “constitutes court-packing.”
Republicans in the past have also accused Democrats of “packing” courts, when they were angered over Democrats advancing a policy agenda while filling vacancies.
“It’s hard to imagine the rationale for nominating three judges at once for this court given the many vacant emergency seats across the country, unless your goal is to pack the court to advance a certain policy agenda,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, then the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said of Obama nominations to vacant seats on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013, according to Roll Call.
Fox News’ Tyler Olson contributed to this report.