Washington, D.C. – November 17, 2023
Amidst recent controversies surrounding potential conflicts of interest, the U.S. Supreme Court has released its first-ever code of ethics, sparking both disappointment and skepticism. The code, signed by all nine justices, addresses concerns about the acceptance of gifts and favors, particularly by justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, from affluent political donors.
In the introduction to the code, the justices acknowledged the need for clarity, stating, “The absence of a Code … has led in recent years to the misunderstanding that the Justices of this Court, unlike all other jurists in this country, regard themselves as unrestricted by any ethics rules.” However, critics argue that the code falls short of addressing past transgressions, offering a forward-looking approach without provisions for investigations or penalties.
Timothy R. Johnson, a professor of “political science and law at the University of Minnesota,” commented, “It really is in a very large sense just a reiteration of a code of conduct that they had already held themselves to.” He highlighted the lack of enforcement mechanisms and oversight for the court’s conduct.
Efforts are underway in the Senate Judiciary Committee to legislate an enforceable code of ethics for the Supreme Court. The committee had planned to issue subpoenas to influential figures like Harlan Crow, Leonard Leo, and Robin Arkley II, who hold sway over the court’s decisions. However, any attempt by Congress to enforce oversight faces constitutional challenges under the separation of powers doctrine.
Despite these challenges, Johnson suggests that Congress has tools at its disposal, including the power of impeachment, controlling the court’s budget, and utilizing Article 3 of the U.S. Constitution to restrict the court’s jurisdiction in specific cases. He emphasizes the need for Congress to take a firm stance in holding the Supreme Court accountable.
Klobuchar Breaks Stalemate on Military Promotions, Faces Republican Opposition
Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota achieved a victory in resolving a standoff that has hindered military promotions for months. Senator Tommy Tuberville, protesting the Pentagon’s policy on covering abortion travel costs for service members and dependents, had blocked quick approval of promotions since February.
In response, Klobuchar, chair of the Senate Rules Committee, proposed a resolution, approved by her committee, allowing the swift confirmation of over 350 military promotions that had been delayed. Klobuchar expressed frustration, stating, “Hundreds of critical positions are left unfilled, and our national security is at risk.”
While many Senate Republicans joined Democrats in criticizing Tuberville for impeding military promotions, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has delayed bringing the resolution to a vote. McConnell seeks time to negotiate with Tuberville on the abortion issue, but if no resolution is reached, enough Senate Republicans may support the resolution after the Thanksgiving break.
Minnesota GOP Demands Answers on Feeding Our Future Fraud
Minnesota’s Republican members of Congress are demanding answers from the state’s Department of Education regarding the “Feeding our Future” fraud, which siphoned over $250 million in federal pandemic funds intended to feed children during the COVID-19 pandemic. The fraud involved exploiting relaxed rules and allowing restaurants to participate in the program.
The GOP lawmakers, joined by key House committee chairs, sent a letter seeking information on how the Minnesota Department of Education failed to prevent the massive fraud. They criticized the lack of transparency from both the state and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and emphasized the need for accountability to prevent such fraud in the future.
Despite ongoing efforts by the U.S. Justice Department, the Republican lawmakers are intent on conducting their own investigation into what has been described as the “largest COVID-19 fraud scheme in the nation.”
In Other News: Ilhan Omar Introduces Resolution, Controversial Congressman Faces Ethics Probe
In a notable move, Representative Ilhan Omar, along with her progressive colleagues, introduced a resolution to block the export license for $320 million worth of munitions to Israel. The resolution reflects growing concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza resulting from the use of these weapons.
On a different note, Representative George Santos from New York announced he would not seek reelection following a House Ethics Committee report finding “substantial evidence” of his violation of federal criminal laws. The bipartisan report accused Santos of using campaign funds for personal expenses, including purchases on an adult content website and luxury goods stores.
These developments underscore the ongoing challenges and controversies in both domestic and foreign policy arenas.