During a Thursday Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Chairman Dick Durbin (D- Ill.) ignored, even violated, longstanding procedure because they were trying to fast track subpoenas for Republican donor Harlan Crow and activist Leonard Leo, arguing they have influenced Supreme Court Justices with gifts and donations. On top of that, he didn’t let Republican committee members speak up about judicial nominations they wanted to object to.
Before the vote to subpoena, The Hill reports that “Republican members of the committee stormed out of the hearing room in the Hart building.” No Republicans voted on the motion that passed. Durbin went on with the vote “to prevent Republicans from delaying it until next week by invoking a rule to limit committee meetings to two hours.”
Even though Democrats approved the subpoenas without Republicans, it still would require 60 votes on the Senate floor to enforce them and that’s not likely to pass, so the controversial push for subpoenas was ceremonial at best and a show of solidarity among people promoting the idea that Republican donors were garnering favor with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito through gifts.
Before the two-hour hearing concluded, Durbin stonewalled Republicans from speaking about two judicial nominees who were coming before the committee for a second time. Durbin claimed Republicans had a chance to debate the nominees.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) pointed out to Durbin that this isn’t just about Republican donors or even the inability to speak up about nominees, but destroying protocol “Mr. Chairman you just destroyed one of the most important committees in the United States Senate. And you’ve set a precedent which will be repeated,” Cornyn said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R- SC) wasn’t happy about the way Democrats handled the hearing either. “I don’t know who you’re trying to please. I don’t know what group is going to feel better because we’re doing this on your side but you’re pleasing like none of us,” Graham said. “This is about an ongoing effort to destroy this court, to destroy Clarence Thomas’s reputation.”
Democrats have been unhappy about the Supreme Court since President Donald Trump appointed three originalist justices to the bench, who later upended one of the most controversial cases in history: Roe v. Wade. They’ve been promising to shift its makeup. But until now, they’ve lacked the power to even try.
Who can forget Sen. Chuck Schumer’s impassioned speech at a pro-choice rally in Washington, D.C. following the Dobbs decision which essentially overturned Roe sending it back to the states: “I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh: you have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price,” Schumer said “You won't know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”
While Schumer apologized the next day for such inflammatory remarks, it’s pretty obvious he --- and fellow Democrats --- were furious about the fact that Trump’s appointees made Roe’s reversal possible. It’s safe to say that by investigating donors who’ve befriended Supreme Court members or pushing for nominees to the judiciary that other Republicans oppose --- folks who could potentially then be in line for another Supreme Court vacancy --- Democrats are still trying to make Republicans “pay the price.”
The Supreme Court is a vital branch in the trio of the nation’s government. But unlike the others, it’s not supposed to be subjected to political influence, machinations, or games. This includes bribery and influencing the Court, both of which Leo and Crow have denied. Apparently, that won’t stop Democrats from trying to make this case, even if it means subpoenaing Republicans while stonewalling Republican committee members from discussing nominees.
It appears that Democrats are working to make Schumer’s dreams a reality, even if they must do so in an unethical and unconstitutional manner. And even if it means creating a nightmare for Republicans.