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Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) speaks to reporters outside the U.S. Capitol on September 23, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) speaks to reporters outside the U.S. Capitol on September 23, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

House Progressives Urge Reforms to 'Hold These Rogue Justices to Account'

Recent rulings by the Supreme Court's right-wing majority have made clear the need for substantive changes, including expansion, argues Rep. Pramila Jayapal.

Kenny Stancil

After the U.S. Supreme Court's deeply unpopular reactionary majority spent its latest term carrying out an assault on fundamental constitutional rights, Rep. Pramila Jayapal on Tuesday reiterated House progressives' demands to reform the nation's chief judicial body, including by adding seats.

"We do not have to simply accept the devastation of these rulings."

"Last week, the Supreme Court finished one of the most consequential and destructive terms in recent decades," Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement. "The list of precedents nullified and democratic institutions and principles this Supreme Court gutted or fully overturned this term is horrifying."

As Jayapal noted, the high court attacked the separation of church and state, legal protections in the 100-mile border zone, the rights of death row inmates, state-level concealed carry laws, Miranda rights, the authority of federal agencies to safeguard public health and the environment, and the constitutional right to abortion.

"The court denied Social Security benefits to the residents of Puerto Rico, blocked a federal vaccine-or-test requirement, denied detained immigrants bond hearings, undermined tribal sovereignty, allowed the CIA to withhold information about torture at black sites, and entrenched Louisiana's racially gerrymandered electoral maps," Jayapal continued.

"They won't stop here," she added. "The justices have already agreed to hear cases next term that could weaken our electoral process, allow discrimination against same-sex couples, and end affirmative action."

Jayapal argued that "these extreme decisions are the result of a decades-long project to stack the bench with adherents to a right-wing agenda and overrule precedent and the will of the American people."

The court's majority "has made clear it has no concern for ethics," said Jayapal. "There is evidence that a sitting justice's wife was involved in efforts to overturn a free and fair presidential election, and when legal challenges on that very issue came before the court, the justice did not recuse himself," she pointed out, referring to Clarence and Ginni Thomas.

"Congress has an obligation to respond, and do so quickly."

"Three others appear to have misled the Senate Judiciary Committee about Roe v. Wade being settled precedent," Jayapal continued, echoing Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), both of whom called for impeachment probes last week.

"The Supreme Court has overreached its authority and destroyed its legitimacy," said Jayapal, but "we do not have to simply accept the devastation of these rulings."

"The constitution created three co-equal branches of government, vesting the people's elected representatives with the broad authority to check and balance a judiciary that oversteps its mandate," she stressed. "That's why Congress has an obligation to respond, and do so quickly."

Jayapal called for the swift passage of three key pieces of legislation to prevent the Supreme Court from further "wreaking havoc on our country":

  • The Judiciary Act—introduced by Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), and Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) in the House and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in the upper chamber—would expand the number of seats on the high court from nine to 13;
  • Johnson's Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency (SCERT) Act, would establish an ethics and recusal standard for members of the nation's chief judicial body and require disclosure of lobbying and dark money interests; and
  • The Judicial Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act—introduced by Jayapal and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)—would prohibit all federal judges from owning individual stocks, commercial real estate, trusts, and private corporations, among other measures.

"In the Judiciary Committee, we must continue our critical oversight obligations and hold additional hearings on the violations of ethics and transparency the Supreme Court has committed," Jayapal added. "We must hold these rogue justices to account."


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