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Supreme Court ethics bill stalls after Republican Senators vote to block

The bill, brought by Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, would create a binding code of conduct for Supreme Court justices.
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Posted at 7:52 PM, Jun 12, 2024

A bill that would hold Supreme Court justices to a code of ethics failed in the U.S. Senate Wednesday after Republicans stalled the measure.

The bill, brought by Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, would create a code of conduct for Supreme Court justices and a framework for investigating departures from it. Justices would also be required to explain recusals.

"The highest court in the land cannot and should not have the lowest ethical standards," said Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and other Republicans voted to block the bill, calling it an unconstitutional overreach of the legislature's powers and a politically motivated response to the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022.

"I do not think this bill is about ethics. This bill is about abortion," said Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy on Wednesday.

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Breaking down the new Supreme Court ethics code

Stephanie Liebergen
4:28 PM, Nov 26, 2023

The ethics bill was first introduced in the Senate in 2023, where it failed on bipartisan lines.

Later in 2023 the Supreme Court adopted its own nonbinding code of conduct. The code is modeled after the one for lower court judges, but it does not have a process for holding justices accountable if they violate the rules.

Meanwhile, Democrats in the U.S. House Of Representatives are working on a court ethics bill of their own. There are not many specifics available yet, but one part of the legislation may seek to hold Supreme Court justices to the same $50 gift limit that members of the House must adhere to.