GOP Senators Block Democrats’ SCOTUS Ethics Bill

( – In June 2021, over 46% of the American population had confidence in the US Supreme Court. Since then, the disapproval statistic has risen to over 55% as of June 12, bringing the spread between approval and disapproval to over 20% against SCOTUS. With scandals swirling around justices sitting on the High Court, Democrats in the Senate attempted to bring order by passing an ethics bill to keep SCOTUS in check.

On June 12, Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) brought the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency (SCERT) Act to the Senate floor for a vote. However, the measure was blocked by Senate Republicans. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said the bill was “unconstitutional” and would hinder the “court’s ability to operate effectively.” His view was backed by several other GOP lawmakers. Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) accused Democrats of bringing the bill to the floor in retaliation for SCOTUS stripping women of their reproductive rights in 2022.

Currently, the Supreme Court has a recently adopted ethics code, but the application of the measure is self-imposed. That means if an ethical violation comes up, the justices themselves — who allegedly violated ethics — would decide if they violated the ethics code. SCERT would have instituted a binding code of ethics and established a means to investigate alleged violations. The act would have also brought more transparent rules for gifts and recusals. Democrats in favor of the legislation said it would protect the legitimacy of the court, which seems to be in dire straights. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas have both been under heavy scrutiny for recent scandals, calling the court’s legitimacy into question.

When the bill failed, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) expressed frustration with his Republican colleagues. He accused SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts of failing to protect the court’s reputation and vowed to determine next steps with Durbin. It’s unclear what that will entail.

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