'Power of the purse': Senate Democrats threaten Supreme Court funding cuts during ethics code push

'Power of the purse': Senate Democrats threaten Supreme Court funding cuts during ethics code push

U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts recently declined an invitation from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. And the justices have been resisting calls for a High Court ethics code.

Durbin's invitation followed bombshell reporting by ProPublica on April 6 that Justice Clarence Thomas had, for more than 20 years, been "treated to luxury vacations" by billionaire donor Harlan Crow and failed to report it. The High Court has also been drawing vehement criticism for everything from its wildly unpopular ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization — which ended abortion as a national right — to reports that far-right Republican activist Ginni Thomas (Justice Thomas' wife) tried to get 2020's presidential election results overturned.

But Senate Democrats, journalist Alexander Bolton reports in an article published by The Hill on May 4, have found a way to play hardball: threatening to cut funding for the High Court.

READ MORE: Top Senate Democrat: 'Clarence Thomas should be subpoenaed'

Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island told The Hill, "There are court decisions that say very clearly that in interbranch disputes, it is completely appropriate and proper for the legislative branch to use the power of the purse to influence the other branches in doing what they ought to be doing."

Bolton notes that 15 Senate Democrats, on March 31, sent a letter to Sen. Chris Van Hollen — the Maryland Democrat who heads the Senate Financial Services Subcommittee — "asking him to include language to the appropriations bill that would withhold $10 million in funding for the Supreme Court unless it adopted a public ethics code."

Some far-right Senate Republicans are angry over the threatened budget cuts, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri. But the Democrats who are hoping for a High Court ethics code aren't backing down. Cruz claimed that such cuts would take away security for the justices — a claim that Van Hollen says is misleading.

Van Hollen told The Hill, "In the (Financial Services) Subcommittee, we're looking at all of our options to promote an ethics rule to be applied to the Supreme Court. I've been very clear that we’re not going to cut or restrict money for Court security."

READ MORE: The Supreme Court is 'determined' to 'defy ethical accountability': journalist

Read The Hill's full report at this link.

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