House passes expanded security for Supreme Court justices’ families, 27 Democrats vote ‘no’
The House passed a bill on Tuesday that would provide security protections to family members of Supreme Court justices, sending the measure to President Biden’s desk for final approval.
The legislation, dubbed the Supreme Court Police Parity Act, cleared the House in a 396-27 vote, with only Democrats objecting to the measure.
Passage in the lower chamber comes more than a month after the Senate approved the bill by unanimous consent, meaning all 100 lawmakers signed off on the measure, allowing it to clear without having to go through a formal vote.
The bill offers “around-the-clock security protection” to family members of Supreme Court justices and “any officer” of the bench if the court marshal deems it necessary, protections similar to those of some executive and congressional officials.
Supreme Court justices already have federal protection.
The monthlong delay was the result of a standoff between the House and Senate: Democrats in the lower chamber wanted to pass an expanded bill that also offered protections to Supreme Court staff, including judicial clerks, if the court marshal deemed it necessary.
Senate Republicans, however, refused to pass that bill. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters on Monday that the House version “is not going to pass the Senate.”
“The security issue is related to Supreme Court justices, not nameless staff that no one knows,” he added.
On Tuesday night, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) revealed that the House would vote on the Senate bill, sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Coons (D-Del).
Asked why Democrats had decided to accept the Senate version as written, Hoyer said, “I can’t really give you an explanation, because adding more employees doesn’t seem like a very controversial thing to do.”
Hoyer added that he was “surprised” by the Senate pushback to the expanded proposal. “But it is what it is. And we’re going to move the bill,” he said.
The Senate introduced the security bill days after Politico sent shockwaves throughout the country by publishing a draft majority opinion that showed the bench was prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade, the nearly 50-year-old Supreme Court decision that safeguards the right to abortion at the federal level.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the draft opinion that “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” adding that “a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history.”
Protests broke out across the country following the leak, and abortion rights activists, the Biden administration and Democrats countrywide are reportedly preparing a range of actions should Roe be overturned.
A final ruling in the case — involving a Mississippi law that outlaws nearly all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy — is expected by the end of the month.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made three requests to pass the bill by unanimous consent over the past week, all of which failed.
In remarks from the House floor Tuesday, McCarthy said he was “glad” Democratic leadership brought the Senate bill up for a vote but questioned why it took so long.
“The House Democrats have delayed it for more than a month. The question the American public asks is, why? Why would you delay it?” McCarthy said.
“We have all known that additional security has been necessary since the Dobbs opinion was leaked last month,” he added, citing the Supreme Court leak before pointing to the assassination attempt on Kavanaugh.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), during debate of the bill on the House floor Tuesday, said, “In the interest of protecting the justices’ families, we can no longer delay in passing the only version of the bill [Republicans] would apparently agree to.”
He called the Senate bill “the best we can get,” adding in a separate comment, “I hope we will move swiftly another bill to extend protection to families of employees as well.”
The California Democrat blamed Republicans for delaying the vote, condemning his colleagues across the aisle for not getting on board with the expanded measure that also offered protection to families of employees.
“Let me tell you why it took us a few weeks rather than just one week to pass this legislation. It’s because Republicans refuse to protect the families of Supreme Court employees who are at risk,” Lieu said. “Shame on you for not doing that.”
Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) accused Democrats of holding up the security bill as a way to protect the individual who leaked the draft majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade.
The leaker is not known to the public, and the underlying motivation remains unclear. Chief Justice John Roberts ordered an investigation into the leak, though no details have been provided since.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) on the House floor said the bill “should’ve passed a darn long time ago,” adding that it was “better late than never.”
Mike Lillis contributed.
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