Pelosi: House will vote next week to boost security for SCOTUS families
The House will vote next week on legislation to expand security for the families and staff of the Supreme Court justices, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Thursday.
The Senate approved the legislation unanimously last month, and House Republicans have fumed that House Democrats have delayed the vote in the lower chamber — anger fueled by this week’s arrest of an armed man near the home of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
House Democrats were eyeing a Thursday vote on a version of the legislation, but lingering disagreements between the House and Senate caused leadership to scrap that idea in favor of bringing the proposal to the floor when Congress returns to Washington next week. Pelosi said it will happen quickly.
“We had hoped that we could do it today but we certainly will do it at the beginning of next week,” Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol.
Supreme Court justices already have federal protection. The issue of expanding it to include families and staff gained prominence last month after Politico published a draft ruling by the court’s conservative majority that would eliminate the protections provided by Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision establishing the constitutional right to abortion.
The news has energized activists on both sides of the issue, and some pro-abortion-rights protesters have staged demonstrations outside the homes of several conservative Supreme Court justices.
The Senate bill, sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Coons (D-Del.), would expand the domain of the Supreme Court Police to include immediate family members of the nine justices and “any” other court officers “if the Marshal determines such protection is necessary.”
House Democrats have sought to expand that jurisdiction even further to include the families not only of the justices, but also the staff, if the Marshal deems it appropriate. It’s that distinction that has caused the House delay.
“We’re working together on the bill that the Senate will be able to approve of,” Pelosi said. “We can pass whatever we want here. We want it to be able to pass the Senate.”
Her explanation did little to appease Republicans, who are furious that Democrats are leaving for the long weekend without taking up the bill.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said he spoke with Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Thursday morning, telling the Democratic leader that every Republican would support the Senate-passed measure.
“This bill could be on the president’s desk right now,” McCarthy said.
The issue has gained greater urgency this week following the arrest near Kavanaugh’s home in suburban Maryland. The suspect was carrying a pistol, a knife, zip ties and other weapons, according to federal officials, who said the man told them he had traveled from California for the purpose of killing Kavanaugh and then himself.
“How many times do they have to be threatened? How many people have to be arrested?” McCarthy said. “That bill has been sitting here for one month.”
Hoyer on Wednesday said he’s been in talks this week to seal an agreement, saying the sides are “close.”
“I want to see the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed. But it was a very positive discussion,” he said. “So, if I’m correct, I think we’ll be able to move relatively soon.”
Pelosi emphasized that the justices themselves already have federal protection, downplaying the idea that the legislative delay in the House has heightened the threat to their safety.
“The justices are protected. This issue is not about the justices. It’s about staff and the rest,” she said.
“There will be a bill,” she continued, “but no one is in danger over the weekend because of our not having a bill.”