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Fellow Democrat at Odds With Durbin Over Supreme Court Justices

Senate Democrats are at an impasse on what to do with the U.S. Supreme Court. While they may have a slim majority, they have been unable to get the Court to bend to their will. Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL), of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had invited Chief Justice John Roberts to appear before them, though his invitation was ultimately declined. Durbin didn't subpoena the chief justice, nor Justice Clarence Thomas, because he knew they couldn't. At least one fellow Democrat is in disagreement though.


Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who sits on the committee, has come out in favor of how they should at least "consider issuing subpoenas for Supreme Court justices," which could include Justice Thomas. Earlier this month, ProPublica published a heavily criticized report on financial disclosures to do with the justice. Earlier this week, POLITICO did the same about Justice Neil Gorsuch, another conservative justice.

Durbin knows that he can't subpoena the chief justice, or any justice really. This is not merely because he doesn't have the votes due to Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) continued absence, though that certainly is a reason, especially since Republicans blocked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's (D-NY) move to replace Feinstein on the committee with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD). 

It's rich that Durbin would point to history as his reason for not subpoenaing a justice, since he likely shouldn't have asked Roberts to come at all, then, In declining Durbin's request, Roberts effectively told the chairman to stay in his lane not only due to separation of powers, but because such testimony is "exceedingly rare."


Blumenthal made a Wednesday appearance on MSNBC's "Deadline: White House" where he and host Nicolle Wallace expressed concerns about public trust and the "integrity" of the Court. 

It was during such an appearance when asked by Wallace if the committee would invite the liberal justices to speak to the committee, that Blumenthal referenced subpoenas. He offered that "we should consider inviting other justices, but also subpoenaing other witnesses, as well as documents, as a last resort, if there's no action by other branches of government with appropriate responsibility, either the judges themselves, or the Justice Department, the Judiciary Committee should consider subpoenas for the justices." 

He even went to call on the House Judiciary Committee to act, throwing out how impeachment could be an option, before casually claiming "I'm very clear-eyed, I have no illusions about the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Republicans, beginning an impeachment proceeding against Justice Thomas," and stressing "I think Congress as a whole has a responsibility here."

This was after Blumenthal had also accused Justice Thomas of having created the appearance that the Supreme Court is for hire and open to the highest bidder, in his case Harlan Crow who had leadership roles in cases before the Supreme Court."

During the segment, Blumenthal had accused the chief justice of having "regrettably, even reprehensively, dodged responsibility here," which the senator claimed "will be a stain on his personal legacy."


"That kind of appearance of impropriety cannot be allowed to stand and stain the court," the senator warned. 

On Wednesday, Sens. Angus King (I-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced legislation that would require the Supreme Court to create a code of conduct. Neither of the senators are on the Judiciary Committee. 

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