Saturday, 23 Sep 2023

Republicans thwart Democrats push to stiffen supreme court ethics rules

Republicans thwart Democrats push to stiffen supreme court ethics rules


Republicans thwart Democrats push to stiffen supreme court ethics rules

Arguing that the US supreme court has "the lowest ethical standards" of a court in the country, Senate Democrats on Tuesday demanded tighter rules on the nine justices but ran into resistance from Republicans who accused them of being bitter over recent conservative rulings.

Democrats had convened a hearing of the Senate judiciary committee after a series of media reports on entanglements between two of the court's conservative justices and parties with interests in its cases. These includes Clarence Thomas's acceptance of luxury travel and a real estate deal from Republican mega-donor Harlan Crow, and Neil Gorsuch's sale of a property to a law firm executive with business before the court. Both were interactions the two justices did not fully disclose.

The committee's Democratic chair Dick Durbin, a senator from Illinois, said: "We wouldn't tolerate this from a city council member or an alderman. It falls short of the ethical standards we expect of any public servant in America. And yet the supreme court won't even acknowledge it's a problem.

"Ethics cannot simply be left to the discretion of the nation's highest court. The court should have a code of conduct with clear and enforceable rules so justices and the American people know when conduct crosses the line. The highest court in the land should not have the lowest ethical standards."

But to Republicans, the Democrats' calls for Thomas to be investigated and for the court to accept more stringent ethics rules represent nothing more than sour grapes. Last year, the supreme court's six conservative justices handed down decisions that upended American life by overturning the precedent established by Roe v Wade to allow states to ban abortion, expanding the ability for Americans to carry concealed weapons without a permit, and reducing the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate power plant emissions.

Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the panel, alluded to these rulings to argue Democrats were simply trying to undermine the court's conservative majority.

"This assault on justice Thomas is well beyond ethics. It is about trying to delegitimize a conservative court that was appointed through the traditional process," Graham, a senator from South Carolina, said.

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