The Supreme Court reform whose time has come?

The liberal push to "pack" the Supreme Court with more justices was always much more likely to be an exercise in catharsis than actual reform. And that became even clearer last week, when President Joe Biden's Supreme Court reform commission - the commission spurred by those calls for court-packing - took a rather dim view of the idea.

But even as that court-packing ship has increasingly sailed, the commission highlighted some other ideas that make a lot more sense for those truly interested in realistic reforms. And a new poll reinforces just how practical and consensus one of them could be.

The poll from venerated pollster J. Ann Selzer and Grinnell College asked people whether they would support a 15-year term limit for justices (others have floated 18 years). Fully 62% of Americans agreed - including more than 70% of Democrats and even a majority of Republicans, whose support for the idea outpaced opposition by double digits.

The numbers are similar to other recent polls, which have this idea polling at 65% and 63%.

The actual prospects for this idea are admittedly dim. Even if public support were broader, it would quite possibly require a constitutional amendment - meaning two-thirds majorities of both the House and Senate and ratification by 38 states.

There's also likely to be very little appetite for it in the official Republican Party, given how successful they have been at gaming the nomination process in recent years and getting a historically conservative court that could lean that way for decades. And Biden even briefly indicated over the weekend that he opposed the idea.

We should also remember that support for term limits - especially ones for Congress - is often high, and that has hardly provided an impetus for implementing them. Perhaps it might be different if legislators weren't term-limiting themselves, but consensus on an issue is generally insufficient; you need actual pressure.

Those realities aside, there's an argument to be made that the time is ripe for at least having such a debate - to hold hearings on this option, rather than court-packing.

The good-government reasons are well-publicized. Almost all democratic countries have either term limits or mandatory retirement ages for their highest courts. The Constitution was written at a time in which people didn't live nearly as long. The makeup of the court is highly dependent upon when justices happen to die or decide to retire, creating a situation in which we've had Democratic presidents for most of the past three decades, but with six of nine justices nominated by Republican presidents. And even current justices have endorsed this idea.

But there's also an argument for this being a good political moment in time for at least talking about it.

For one, faith in the Supreme Court has hit a new low point. Gallup shows that just 40% of people approve of how the court is handling its job - lower than at any point in the 21st century and lower even than after Bush v. Gore. Another recent poll showed a troubling number of Americans (around one-third) flirting with the idea of abolishing the court. That was both the highest number on record and something that was surprisingly bipartisan, given the conservative lean of the court.

There's also the fact that it wouldn't necessarily have an impact on the current court. For instance, House Democrats recently introduced a bill that would implement 18-year term limits on justices, but which wouldn't apply to current justices. Even those pushing term limits have acknowledged applying them to the current court would be impractical. A deal could seemingly be struck pushing the impact further in the future so that lawmakers wouldn't have to deal with more immediate, negative impacts for their side.

That would do little for liberals seeking instant gratification and retribution, of course, but it might give enough Republicans some cover to support it. You could also make an argument that, while the GOP has more successfully gamed the system today thanks to the confluences of circumstances in recent years (i.e. when vacancies occur/who has the power to nominate and confirm), that won't necessarily always be so.

There's also something to be gained for legislators in this: specifically, that the Supreme Court would be more consistently moderate and, thus, less likely to overrule the legislative branch or exert itself on matters generally reserved for those legislators. While liberals decry the Supreme Court more today, for much of the past few decades, it has been Republicans who decried "activist" judges. Creating a more consistently divided court would reduce the possibility that a court leaning one way or another would issue far-reaching rulings that could be construed as such.

There's also the fact that it has been Republicans who have most actively pushed for congressional term limits in recent history. And while those have never been implemented, perhaps you could argue what's good for the legislator might also be good for the jurist? Democrats could make a pretty compelling case that this is a conservative value that they're suddenly interested in (however transparent the reasons).

The challenge is that Congress is generally only good at dealing with issues involving some kind of immediacy - whether a deadline or some kind of crisis. It's unlikely this will rank as a priority for Democrats in the potentially short period of time in which they have the power to force the issue, especially given their other priorities, the difficulty in passing something significant and the lack of an immediate payoff.

Again, the point isn't that this necessarily could - or even should - happen. It's just that the time seems ripe for a debate on it, Biden's quick dismissal of the idea notwithstanding. In a serious Congress interested in doing what people want, there's plenty to suggest the need for a more earnest debate on a Supreme Court reform that's actually realistic.

Of course, that never really seemed to be the true aim of Biden's commission, which was more about running out the clock on a more far-reaching idea that he was uncomfortable with.