Jul 20, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Senate committee advances Supreme Court ethics bill

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

The Democrat-led Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted along party lines to approve legislation instituting a code of conduct for Supreme Court justices.

Why it matters: The measure serves as Democrats' response to recent reporting about Supreme Court justices, most notably Clarence Thomas, accepting lavish gifts.

What they're saying: "This legislation will be a crucial first step in restoring confidence in the Court after a steady stream of reports of Justices’ ethical failures has been released to the public," Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in a statement.

Driving the news: The committee voted 11-10 along party lines to send the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act to the Senate floor.

  • The bill would require the court to establish a published code of conduct, as well as a process for members of the public to file complaints and for a panel of lower court judges to investigate alleged violations.
  • It would strengthen financial disclosure requirements for justices, as well as parties filing amicus briefs.
  • It would also create new requirements for justices to recuse themselves over conflicts of interest and mandate public explanations of recusal decisions.

Reality check: The legislation has little chance of making it out of the Senate, let alone passing in the GOP-controlled House.

  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the bill an "intimidation campaign by the Left to undermine the Court" in a floor speech on Wednesday.
  • At least nine Senate Republicans would have to support the bill for it to overcome the filibuster, assuming all Democrats vote for it.
Go deeper