Pack the Supreme Court? Why we may be getting closer

We’re arguably in the midst of an environment in which this rather drastic and little-used step could be construed as viable or even necessary. The only things standing in the way of such an effort are basic math and a fear of unintended consequences. And the barriers on both counts are crumbling.

On the first count, Democrats would not only have to regain both chambers of Congress and the presidency, but they would also need to get 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster. That same filibuster, though, has been severely scaled back in recent years (for reasons we’ll get to) and could simply be eliminated.

The bigger hurdle would seem to be the consequences. Included under this umbrella are the arguments that this could lead to some kind of unraveling of U.S. government (by turning the judiciary into effectively another political branch) or even just backfire politically (by setting a precedent that the other side later exploits). On that count, it’s possible that the politics of Supreme Court vacancies have devolved so significantly that Democrats — or even Republicans — might decide it’s worth a shot.