A bill providing security protections for the family members of Supreme Court justices is headed to President Biden’s desk as the nation braces for the high court to release decisions in high-profile cases on abortion and gun rights later this month.
The Supreme Court Police Parity Act passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 396-27 Tuesday and passed the Senate last month by unanimous consent.
Its most prominent feature is expanding federal security protections for Supreme Court justices to also include their immediate family members and officers of the court whose protection is “deemed necessary” by a court marshal.
A separate House version of the bill introduced by Democratic Representative Greg Stanton of Arizona would have expanded security protections for all Supreme Court staff when deemed necessary. The House passed the narrower bill that had already passed the upper chamber, however, to settle concerns that the more expansive legislation would not gain traction in the Senate.
The 27 no votes all came from Democrats who wanted to pass that expanded bill that offered protections to Supreme Court staff.
Senate Republicans, however, refused to pass that bill. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters on Monday that the House version “is not going to pass the Senate.”
“The security issue is related to Supreme Court justices, not nameless staff that no one knows,” he added.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who repeatedly requested unanimous consent to get the security bill through the House and was denied, condemned Democrats for delaying the vote while they considered the alternative security bill.
“These unnecessary delays put the safety of the justices and their families in danger,” McCarthy said on the House floor Tuesday.
Democratic Representative Ted Lieu of California pushed back against McCarthy’s accusations that the debate over who should be protected by the security bill caused an “unnecessary delay.”
“Democrats were fighting for families of law clerks, employees of the Supreme Court — they should have protection, too,” Lieu said.
Demand for the House to pass the security bill and send it to Biden’s desk reached new heights last week after a man threatening to kill Justice Brett Kavanaugh was arrested outside the Trump appointee’s Maryland home.
Police arrested and charged Nicholas Roske with attempted murder of a federal judge, claiming the 26-year-old was armed and planning to kill Kavanaugh out of frustration with the leaked draft opinion indicating the court will overturn Roe v. Wade and concern that the Trump appointee will join the court’s conservative supermajority in a separate case primed to loosen gun control laws.
The high court stands poised to overturn Roe v. Wade in a case involving a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks. A draft majority opinion leaked last month revealed Justice Samuel Alito was prepared to rule that the near-50-year precedent providing the right to an abortion was “egregiously wrong from the start.”
Since the leak, protesters have held rallies both outside the court and at the homes of justices, including the residences of Alito, Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts.
Security and law enforcement have fortified the Supreme Court building, erecting an 8-foot fence around the court and reducing traffic on nearby streets.