Republicans are gearing up for a battle against a Democrat-backed bill that aims to regulate the Supreme Court. The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote on the measure, known as the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act (SCERT) of 2023, on July 20. Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, expressed his concerns about the bill during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on July 19.
Graham characterized the efforts by the Left to undermine the Court as one of the most dangerous phenomena he has witnessed during his time in office. The bill, introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island and chairman of the committee’s Subcommittee on the Federal Courts, Oversight, Agency Action, and Federal Rights, would require the Supreme Court to establish a code of conduct for its members.
In addition, the bill would establish a complaint system that allows the public to file grievances against justices if they violate the code of conduct or engage in behavior that undermines the integrity of the Court. Republicans argue that this complaint mechanism is designed to impede the functioning of the Court itself.
Graham emphasized that Republicans will fiercely defend the constitutional separation of powers. He warned that if this bill were to pass, it would destroy the Supreme Court as we know it. Republicans have accused Democrats of targeting the Court because of its conservative-leaning majority, which has made decisions that Democrats find objectionable.
Democrats, on the other hand, have been calling for the adoption of a code of ethics by the Supreme Court in response to alleged ethical lapses by conservative justices. Specifically, they have expressed outrage over Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito’s failure to disclose certain events and trips. It has been reported that wealthy Republican donor Harlan Crow provided lavish vacations and financial support to Justice Thomas. Justice Alito also failed to disclose a paid trip and did not recuse himself from a Court case related to the person who funded the transportation.
However, Democrats have been less vocal about a report that liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s staff pressured colleges to purchase her books. Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, emphasized the need for the bill during a speech on the Senate floor. He argued that Supreme Court justices should be subject to the same ethical standards as other federal officials and that it is time for a change.
Republicans, including Senator Ted Cruz from Texas, view the Democrats’ push for ethics as a deliberate effort to discredit and destroy the Supreme Court. Cruz accused Democrats of being unhappy with conservative justices who adhere to the Constitution and the law. He argued that Democrats do not respect democracy and instead seek to use the courts to push unpopular left-wing policies.
Cruz also criticized Democrats for targeting Justice Thomas because he is a conservative African American. He contended that Justice Thomas has been singled out while other justices, including liberal ones, have engaged in similar disclosure practices. Cruz believes that the Democrats’ attack on Justice Thomas is purely political.
Senator John Kennedy from Louisiana echoed the sentiment that the bill is unlikely to pass, as it lacks the necessary votes, both in the Senate and in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. He questioned the purpose of pursuing a bill that would harm the Supreme Court as an institution.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the SCERT Act on July 20. Republicans are prepared to put up a strong fight against the bill, arguing that it amounts to an attack on the Supreme Court and undermines its independence and integrity.