Lawmakers Hold Vote Over SCOTUS Ethics

Photo by Ian Hutchinson on Unsplash

( – Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called this week for the Senate to hold a vote on the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal and Transparency (SCERT) Act. This push came after the recent reports about Justice Samuel Alito on two separate occasions flying flags that have been associated with either the Revolutionary War or the Jan. 6, Capitol attack. Most recently, it was reported that outside of Alito’s beach house, the Revolutionary War flag “An Appeal to Heaven” was flown. However, when lawmakers brought the bill to a vote, the GOP promptly blocked it.

The Democrats have expressed concerns about the luxury vacations and gifts that both Justice Clarence Thomas and Alito have received over the last few years, some of which had not been disclosed. 

Some talk emerged earlier this week about the possibility of Democrats proceeding with a subpoena for Chief Justice John Roberts. However, it is not known whether the Judiciary Committee could get the support necessary to subpoena Roberts.

Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), for instance, told the Hill that he was not sure if all 11 Democrats who are currently seated on the panel would provide their support for a subpoena effort. He added that with an 11-10 majority, they were constantly dealing with the fact that one single vote is enough for an act to not pass. 

The Hill reported that a subpoena could give the Supreme Court an extra push to do more on ethics reform. On the flip side, one GOP member of the committee warned it could cause increased tensions in the panel and stall productivity.

Roberts was invited about two weeks ago by the Democrats to talk to the Senate about ethics in the Supreme Court, as well as to address the controversy of Alito’s reported flags. Roberts rejected the invitation. 

Just a day before Roberts declined, Alito refused to recuse from any case relating to the Capitol attack, including former President Donald Trump’s, because his wife had flown a flag similar to those that appeared on Jan. 6. Roberts then pointed out that it was up to each Justice to decide which case they wanted to be recused.

On Wednesday, June 12, Republicans blocked the SCERT Act. It was condemned by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) as “constitutional overreach” that would harm the Court’s ability to work effectively. Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) expressed opposition as well, accusing Democrats of pushing reform out of anger following the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

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