Democrats cow to McConnell on Supreme Court security bill

Congress is primed to pass a bill authorizing enhanced security for families of Supreme Court justices. But, thanks in large part to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his enablers in the Democratic Party, the bill won’t provide the same protections Supreme Court clerks and staff.

The Supreme Court Police Parity Act — co-sponsored by Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., and John Cornyn, R-Texas —will give justices’ family members security that mirrors protection provided to some executive and legislative branch officials. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Monday that the House will vote on the Senate’s bill, bowing to conservatives and ending a weekslong stalemate. 

Republican complaints over public opposition to the conservative-tilted court spurred the bill’s creation. It was written in reaction to demonstrations outside justices’ homes last month protesting a leaked draft opinion showing the court is likely to rescind federal abortion rights this session. In essence, the bill was conceived as a performative measure meant to assert the court’s dominance and the public’s futility in breaking it. Unfortunately, Democrats who hold the majority went along with the act and the bill passed through the Senate on May 9.

House Democrats had been rightfully slow to act on it, pushing for enhanced security measures in a broader bill with protection for staffers and their families. Coincidentally, the FBI announced last week that an armed man showed up near Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s home in Virginia and called 911 to report suicidal thoughts and a desire to kill Kavanaugh.

GOP senators have predictably used that report to browbeat Democratic leadership for prolonging passage of the Senate bill. Hoyer’s announcement that the House will vote on that bill shows Democrats are willingly taking their licks from Republicans on this. 

On Monday, McConnell even suggested conservative anger over the leaked draft opinion, which some believe came from a staffer, is behind GOP opposition to including staffers in the bill. 

McConnell apparently thinks Supreme Court justices do work so dangerous their families need security. But simply because he’s vindictive, court employees — many of whom are publicly known and also participate in this work — won’t receive the same protection.

This bill is a messaging disaster for Democrats. As many have pointed out, the optics of taking drastic steps to supposedly protect justices’ families from violence are terrible given lawmakers haven’t moved with similar urgency to protect the public from gun violence. It’s even more odious that conservatives on this court are likely going to issue rulings that increase the threat of gun violence to people without SCOTUS-level protection. The Senate’s security bill seems like a great way to insulate right-wing justices from the impacts of such decisions.

Nonetheless, keeping with tradition, Democrats succumbed to conservative pressure here, resulting in a Supreme Court security bill that essentially reflects GOP talking points to the letter.

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