After the fast-tracked confirmation process of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Democrats have offered up a now-familiar solution to a court dominated by conservatives: packing the court if they win the White House and the Senate in 2020. The idea was famously endorsed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, when his New Deal initiatives faced opposition from a conservative bench. In response, Roosevelt simply tried to add more liberal justices to the court, which would have paved the way for decisions more favorable to his administration. His court-packing bill ultimately failed in Congress, but today, the idea has resurfaced with new popularity among liberals—even if it remains unpopular among most Americans.
But there might be another way to block a hard, sudden swing to the right on the Supreme Court. Legal theorists largely agree that the Constitution actually allows Congress to restrict the Supreme Court’s authority to hear cases on a specific subject matter, such as abortion. Lawmakers have tried to use this power by passing legislation declaring certain topics off-limits for the court, but they have failed to rally the necessary majorities to pass those bills. Now, with what some see as a nakedly political play by Republicans to shape the ideology of the court, the American public and lawmakers might be more open to such a strategy, which might be a more palatable option to Americans for safeguarding precedent on issues like abortion.