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U.S. Rep. Eric Sorensen says Supreme Court is 'legislating from the bench'

U.S. Representative Eric Sorensen (right) speaks with Village of Peoria Heights officials while visiting the village on Thursday, July 6, 2023.
Collin Schopp
U.S. Rep. Eric Sorensen, right, speaks with Village of Peoria Heights officials while visiting the village on Thursday, July 6, 2023.

U.S. Rep. Eric Sorensen is concerned about the impact of several recent Supreme Court decisions, saying the sitting justices are “legislating from the bench.”

“That’s not the role of the Supreme Court,” the Democrat from Moline told WCBU during a visit to Peoria Heights last week. “The Supreme Court should be interpreting laws; the legislative branch of the United States government, we’re the ones to make the laws.”

The court handed down a string of controversial decisions just ahead of the long July 4 weekend. Two addressed the world of higher education: ending the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness program and declaring affirmative action policies at major American universities unconstitutional.

“It doesn't matter how much money your parents have, you should be able to learn, you should be able to continue your education,” Sorensen said. “And so we need to find better ways to make education connect with young people.”

Some suggestions from Sorensen, who's district includes portions of Greater Peoria, are expanding opportunities at community colleges and apprenticeships. He also said legislators should “take a look” at predatory student loan interest rates.

“With respect to affirmative action, I mean, look, our diversity is our strength, and our unity is our power,” Sorensen said. “And to be able to take that away, to be able to say that certain people now shouldn't be given an opportunity to succeed. That hurts.”

Another high court decision ruled a wedding website designer’s refusal to provide services for same-sex marriages as “protected speech.”

“What we have here is the Supreme Court saying that discrimination, it should be accepted,” Sorensen said. “And that's not a family value of anyone in this room, and anyone in this community.”

Sorensen said he’s also concerned by the ethical questions raised byrecent reporting on the court.

A few of Sorensen’s Democratic colleagues in Congress have proposed the idea of using legislation to “expand” the court to a 13-justice bench. While Sorensen doesn’t conclusively endorse expanding the court, he did say they should explore all their options.

“It's no secret that the Supreme Court justices that the previous president put into, ascended to that position are very young,” he said. “They're going to be there a long, long time. They're going to be making these decisions for a long, long time.”

Sorensen believes the Supreme Court will have to rebuild trust with the general public.

“They're not listening to people who are having a hard time making ends meet,” he said. “They're not, they're not listening to somebody who, who grew up in South Peoria, that was really hoping to get into the University of Illinois, right? We have to make sure that we are doing what's best.”

Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.