Senate Republicans block bill mandating Supreme Court code of ethics

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, led the block of the "Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal and Transparency Act," which was introduced by Illinois's Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin.

Published: June 12, 2024 8:35pm

Senate Republicans blocked a bill on Wednesday that would force the United States Supreme Court to establish a code of conduct, and enforce it, after multiple ethics scandals plagued the high court over the past year.

The block comes after Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee demanded that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito recuse himself on cases related to former President Donald Trump and the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill. The request came after controversial pro-Trump flags were spotted outside two of Alito's homes. Alito has declined the calls to recuse himself.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, led the block of the "Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal and Transparency Act," which was introduced by Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin. Durbin, who is the Senate Judiciary chairman, called for a vote by unanimous consent in order to pass the legislation. 

"Let's be clear. This is not about improving the court. This is about undermining the court," Graham said in remarks on the Senate floor, per CBS News.

The bill comes after the Supreme Court adopted its own independent code of conduct last year, which Durbin criticized as "ineffective," given the recent scandals. 

“In November of last year the Supreme Court adopted an ineffective code of conduct for its justices but it did not enforce the ethics rule in any meaningful way and does not include a mechanism to address violations of the code,” Durbin said on the Senate floor. “The Supreme Court’s own code of conduct reiterates justices should disqualify themselves in cases where there is reasonable doubt about their impartiality.

"Despite serious questions about the impartiality of Justice Alito and Justice [Clarence] Thomas in numerous cases, they have refused to recuse themselves from these cases."

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat who is also on the Senate Judiciary Committee, also defended the legislation, and rejected criticism that it undermined the judicial branch.

“Our bill does not make the Supreme Court subservient to Congress in any respect," Whitehouse said, according to The Hill. "The bill obliges the judicial branch of government to create its own ethics enforcement mechanism that will be run within the judicial branch of government by the judicial branch of government."

Misty Severi is an evening news reporter for Just the News. You can follow her on X for more coverage.

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