Durbin attempt to force Supreme Court ethics vote blocked amid Alito controversy

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., attempted to force a vote Wednesday evening on a Supreme Court ethics bill backed by Democrats amid recent scrutiny of Justice Samuel Alito and renewed calls for the conservative justice to recuse from former President Trump’s immunity case.

Durbin led fellow Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Peter Welch, D-Vt., in a request to bring the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act to the floor for a vote.

However, unanimous consent to consider the measure was not granted, as Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., objected to it. “There are provisions in this bill that should bother anybody that cares about an independent judiciary,” he said in remarks on the Senate floor.

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Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., will attempt to force a vote on a Supreme Court ethics reform bill, but Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., will object to it. (Getty Images)

If brought for a vote and passed, the bill would require the Supreme Court to create an ethics code that is publicly available. It would additionally allow for complaints to be lodged against justices and for a judicial investigation panel to then review them.

The measure advanced out of the committee last year by a party line vote, with 11 Democrats in favor and all 10 Republicans opposed.

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Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., have made a concerted effort to push Justice Alito to recuse. (Getty Images)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., praised Judiciary Democrats for their work on the bill after it advanced, saying at the time, “I support Chairman Durbin, Senator Whitehouse, and the Judiciary Committee’s work on SCOTUS ethics reform, and I look forward to working with them to make progress on this legislation.”

But since its advancement, the bill has remained in limbo.

Schumer’s office did not provide comment to Fox News Digital regarding his plans for bringing it to the floor.

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Judiciary Democrats have made a renewed and concerted push to increase accountability for Supreme Court justices in the wake of the controversy surrounding Alito and his wife. The New York Times recently reported on an upside-down American flag that flew at their Virginia home in the weeks following the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, as well as an “Appeal to Heaven” flag that was on display at a beach home belonging to the Alitos.

Democratic critics have suggested that the flags were displays of support for those who rioted on Jan. 6. Alito has denied this.

The reports prompted several letters to both Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts from Durbin, Whitehouse and Blumenthal, requesting a meeting with Roberts and Alito’s recusal from 2020 election-related cases.

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Judge Samuel Alito, Supreme Court nominee, answers questions during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on Jan. 12, 2006. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Alito has since refused to step back from such cases, which include the matter of Trump’s immunity claim in his federal election interference case, in which a decision from the court is expected this month.

The unanimous consent request also comes in the wake of secret recordings that were taken by an undercover liberal filmmaker at the Supreme Court Historical Society’s annual dinner on June 3. The recordings feature Alito acknowledging that “there are differences on fundamental things that really can’t be compromised” when it comes to ideological differences. Alito additionally agreed with the activist’s statement suggesting the country should return to “godliness.”

In an op-ed on Tuesday for The Wall Street Journal, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., slammed his Democratic colleagues’ attempt to pass the legislation. The Republican explained that the court is charged constitutionally with the power to govern itself. “Liberals complain that the court’s binding ethics rules lack an ‘enforcement mechanism’ to ensure recusal when they want it,” he wrote. “But this complaint would throw the Constitution out the window.”

“The court rightly vests judicial power in its democratically legitimate members as the Constitution requires. Democrats instead want a bureaucracy to ‘administer’ it,” he said in a scathing rebuke of the Democratic effort.

Julia Johnson is a politics writer for Fox News Digital and Fox Business, leading coverage of the U.S. Senate. She was previously a politics reporter at the Washington Examiner. 

Follow Julia’s reporting on X at @JuliaaJohnson_ and send tips to [email protected].

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