Is a packed Supreme Court in our near future?

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett begin on Monday. It’s likely, though not certain, that Barrett will be confirmed. If she is, conservatives will hold either a 6-3 or a 5-3 majority on the Supreme Court, depending on how one categorizes Chief Justice Roberts and how he votes going forward.

If the Democrats win the White House and the Senate, Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer likely will want to pack the Court by adding four new Justices. Why undertake something as radical as court packing if it won’t give the Dems a clear majority? As my father used to say, in for a dime, in for a dollar.

Would the Democrats succeed in adding four Justices? It depends, I think, on the size of their majority.

If the majority is very slim, they might have trouble adding any new Justices. If the Democrats get to, say, 52 seats, I can see them being able to add two new Justices, but maybe not four. But if they get to 54 seats, then adding four Justices becomes a very realistic possibility– or so I speculate.

If I’m right about this, the close races in which the Republican incumbent is thought to be ahead may hold the key to avoiding court packing and the abolition of the filibuster — races like those involving Steve Daines, David Perdue, and (yes) Lindsey Graham. It is these contests that, in the event the Dems will the Senate, will probably determine the size of their margin.

For what it’s worth, FiveThirtyEight’s model gives the Democrats a 69 percent chance of taking control of the Senate. The most likely outcome in its 40,000 simulations has the Dems holding 51 seats. However, it gives them a slightly better than one-in-four chance of reaching or exceeding the 53 mark and about a one-in-six chance of reaching or exceeding 54.

Responses