Sen. Lindsey Graham says he will block Democrats’ effort to unanimously pass Supreme Court ethics reform bill

Sen. Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, plans to block an effort by Senate Democrats to unanimously pass a Supreme Court ethics bill Wednesday on the Senate floor.

“I will object,” Graham told NBC News.

The South Carolina senator’s comments come after Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said earlier on Tuesday that he would make a unanimous consent request to pass Supreme Court ethics legislation that the panel advanced last July.

The South Carolina Republican’s objection means the bill will not be able to move forward because any senator can block a request.

It isn’t clear if the measure will come up for a vote under the normal process, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he’s considering it.

Even before Graham’s comments, Democrats doubted the legislation would advance. “I think I know the outcome, but we’re going to go through the exercise to make sure that both parties are in the record,” Durbin told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.

The Democratic-led Judiciary Committee had advanced the  Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act, on a party-line vote nearly a year ago, but it cannot break a filibuster on the Senate floor without 60 votes. Democrats have 51 members and no Republican is on board with the bill.

In a news release related to the vote, Democrats said the vote follows “a myriad of apparent ethical lapses by Supreme Court justices, which demonstrate the need for ethics reform.”

A spokesperson for the Supreme Court did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday night.

Justice Clarence Thomas reported a pair of trips in 2019 with billionaire friend Harlan Crow to Bali and to the private Bohemian Grove club in California, in his annual financial disclosures report which was released last week. ProPublica had previously reported on Thomas and other justices’ previously undisclosed lavish travel in a series of stories last year that raised questions about the high court’s ethics.

The bill would give the court 180 days to adopt and publish a code of conduct, allowing the public to submit ethics complaints that would then be reviewed by a randomly selected panel of lower court judges. It would also establish new rules for the disclosure of gifts and travel.

The legislation would also require justices to publicly explain any decisions to recuse from a case.

Durbin last month had called on Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to recuse himself from a pair of cases tied to the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, after The New York Times reported that an upside-down American flag was displayed outside his home in the days after the Capitol riot. Alito subsequently declined to step away from those cases.

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