House Dems Insert Poison Pill Into Bipartisan Bill To Protect Supreme Court Justices

Abortion advocates stage a protest outside Associated Justice Samuel Alito's house on May 09, 2022, in Alexandria, Va. / Getty Images
May 12, 2022

House Democrats are undercutting bipartisan legislation to bolster security for Supreme Court justices as heated protests erupt outside their homes.

The Senate passed an emergency, bipartisan bill to beef up security for the justices and the Supreme Court building, sending it to the House on Monday night. Democrats in the House, however, don't appear to be eager to get the bill passed into law. Leadership members said on Wednesday they haven't even read the legislation, which is a single page, and they are now considering a new bill with an added provision that extends the security to the Court's 40-odd clerks—a provision sure to turn off Republicans.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., N.Y.) said Tuesday that Democrats are "certainly going to look" at the bill, but declined to provide a timeline on when to expect a vote. House Democratic Caucus chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D., N.Y.) told reporters on Tuesday that he has not even read the single-page Senate bill.

"I assume the appropriate committee will review it," said Jeffries, who is favored to become the next Democratic speaker.

The lack of urgency from House Democrats comes as leftwing protests have erupted outside the Supreme Court and the homes of conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh in response to the leak of a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. On Saturday, a pro-life clinic's office was firebombed in Wisconsin. Those incidents, Republicans say, mean enhanced security is necessary as soon as possible before things escalate.

Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas), who coauthored the legislation with a Democrat colleague, said Wednesday that taxpayer-funded police protection should not be extended to clerks, given that one of them likely caused the protests putting the safety of justices at risk.

"This partisan bill in the House ignores the good faith work that was being done here in the Senate to build consensus, and expands this legislation to include divisive provisions like potentially extending police protection to the very person who leaked the draft opinion," Cornyn said.

A Senate aide told the Free Beacon that the bill has "no chance of passing in the Senate" with the new provision.

The Senate's Supreme Court Policy Parity Act of 2022 adds a single sentence to the federal code mandating security details to "any member immediate family of the Chief Justice, any Associate Justice, or any officer of the Supreme Court if the Marshal determines such protection is necessary." The bill sailed through the Senate on Monday without opposition.

One senior Republican aide accused House Democrats of "slow walking" the bill out of fear they do not have the votes for it to pass.

"Democrat leadership wants to stall this bill because they're convinced inciting frenzied protests against conservative justices is their last best chance to regain some energy before the midterms," the aide said. "They’re enjoying this and have every intention of riding it out as long as they can."

Rep. Greg Stanton (D., Ariz.), who authored the modified House bill, cited viral social media posts identifying clerks who may have leaked the opinion as rationale for including additional security concerns in his bill. The Senate bill limits new security only to family members of sitting justices.

The lack of a new security bill means it has fallen to local law enforcement to protect the justices' homes. Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin (R.) and Maryland governor Larry Hogan (R.) ordered state agencies and local law enforcement to coordinate on security for justices living in their states.

The eight associate justices did not have round-the-clock protection until recently, though security risks have been evident for years. Justice Antonin Scalia declined a U.S. Marshals detail for his trip to the west Texas hunting ranch where he died in 2016. Members of Scalia’s party could not reach the marshals for hours after he was found dead, and federal law enforcement were slow to respond to the scene. The marshals sometimes provide security for the justices when traveling.