Congress leaps to action after Supreme Court protests

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Congress leaps to action after Supreme Court protests

Members have pushed for measures on judicial safety and a Justice Department crackdown on allegedly illegal protests

Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., is among Republican members of Congress who have pressed for action in the past week because of protests at the homes of Supreme Court justices.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., is among Republican members of Congress who have pressed for action in the past week because of protests at the homes of Supreme Court justices. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

By Michael MacagnonePosted May 12, 2022 at 6:02pm

Members of Congress have moved particularly quickly — at “lightning speed,” as one senator put it — to beef up Supreme Court security and address a wave of protests at homes of justices in the last few days.

Those protests, prompted by last week’s leak of a Supreme Court opinion on abortion rights, collided with simmering concerns about judicial security and sent Congress into an unusual flurry of activity. In the past few days, members have pushed to move measures and funding on judicial safety as well as push the Justice Department to crack down on allegedly illegal protests.

On Monday, the Senate passed a bill by unanimous consent to expand the Supreme Court police’s authority to protect justices and their families around the clock. Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Chris Coons, D-Del., had introduced it just a few days earlier.

Tennessee Republican Sen. Bill Hagerty wants an additional $10 million for efforts to protect the justices, and for a while Thursday threatened to hold up swift passage of the $40 billion supplemental funding bill for Ukraine unless his funding bill got a vote, too.

“Failing to act in this hour of obvious need would be shameful and could be disastrous,” Hagerty said in a statement. After dropping the hold, Hagerty said the move had started a bipartisan conversation about funding Supreme Court security.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., sought a quick floor vote Thursday on his bill to allow justices and other federal judges to demand their personal information, such as home addresses, be wiped off the internet. The bill was approved by the Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support in December.

Menendez’s argument: the urgency shown Monday for the Supreme Court protection bill. “That went through lightning speed, that didn’t even have a hearing, didn’t go through the process of the Judiciary Committee like this bill has,” Menendez said.

But something more typical of the Senate happened: Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who wants the bill to also give that power to members of Congress, blocked the floor action. Paul cited the mass shootings in 2011 that wounded then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at a constituent event, and a 2017 attack that severely injured Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La.

At a House Judiciary Committee markup Wednesday, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., twice attempted to get unanimous consent to vote on a House version of the Supreme Court protection bill. Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., objected.

Issa, who introduced the bill Tuesday, called the protests outside justices’ homes an “imminent threat” to their safety. And Issa said the bill comes “at a time in which the threat is real, and it is current, and it is clearly intimidation.”ADVERTISING

Issa and other Republicans at the meeting argued the protests outside of justice’s homes constituted threats to their safety. They cited a federal law that prohibits “pickets or parades” outside the homes of federal judges, juries or court officials with the intent to influence the outcome of a case.

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