Democrats balk at Alito assertion that Congress has ‘no authority’ over Supreme Court

Democratic lawmakers are criticizing Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s recent interview with The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in which he stated “no provision” in the Constitution allows Congress to regulate the Supreme Court.

“I know this is a controversial view, but I’m willing to say it,” Alito said Friday, referencing Congressional Democrats’ recent efforts to mandate stronger ethics rules. “No provision in the Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court — period.”

"I don’t know that any of my colleagues have spoken about it publicly ... But I think it is something we have all thought about," he told the Journal.

His remarks sparked pushback from a slew of House Democrats.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) argued Congress would always have regulation power over the high court.

"Dear Justice Alito: You’re on the Supreme Court in part because Congress expanded the Court to 9 Justices,” Lieu posted Friday on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. "Congress can impeach Justices and can in many cases strip the Court of jurisdiction."

"Congress has always regulated you and will continue to do so," he added. "You are not above the law."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) claimed the Supreme Court should be the "most scrutinized" because of its power.

“What a surprise, guy who is supposed to enforce checks and balances thinks checks shouldn’t apply to him," Ocasio-Cortez wrote. "Corruption and abuse of power must be stopped, no matter the source," she added. "In fact, the court should be *most* subject to scrutiny, bc it is unelected & life appointed."

“Alito’s next opinion piece in the WSJ is about to be ‘I am a little king, actually. The Constitution doesn’t explicitly say I’m not,’” she added in a separate post.

Both California Democratic Reps. Katie Porter and Adam Schiff also responded to the justice's remarks, calling his view "controversial."

“This view is more than controversial; it’s incorrect,” Porter said on X.  “This is coming from a justice who tried to hide the fact that he accepted luxury vacations on private jets. As a government official, I welcome the American people holding me accountable—why doesn’t Justice Alito?”

Schiff, referring to the ProPublica report that revealed an undisclosed Alaskan fishing trip the justice accepted in 2008 that was paid for by a conservative donor, said Alito's view shows why an "enforceable code of ethics" is needed. The investigation — paired with another that revealed Justice Clarence Thomas received financial gifts without disclosing them — ultimately led to lawmakers' push for the ethics review.

“Let’s translate these statements from Justice Alito, real quick: What we do and how we do it, who pays for our trips and our vacations, or a family member’s tuition, is none of your damn business,” Schiff posted on X. “So buzz off. They need an enforceable code of ethics. Now.” 

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), the sponsor of a bill to reform Supreme Court ethics standards and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also shared on social media that the Journal author of the interview with Alito is the lawyer for Leonard Leo, a prominent conservative legal activist who reportedly organized the fishing trip to Alaska that Alito attended alongside Paul Singer, a hedge fund manager whose plane they took.

“The lawyer who ‘wrote’ this is also the lawyer blocking our investigation into Leonard Leo’s Supreme Court freebies,” Whitehouse tweeted. “Shows how small and shallow the pool of operatives is around this captured Court — same folks keep popping up wearing new hats.”

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) claimed that Alito’s comments seemed “escalatory” and were meant to provoke a response.

“This seems escalatory, and nudges even reluctant court watchers and skeptics of statutory reforms towards doing something,” Schatz said. “I mean, this is a fancy way of telling everyone to pound sand because he’s untouchable.”

Other Democrats who offered their criticism of the Supreme Court justice's words include Rep. Ritchie Torres (N.Y.), Sen. Tina Smith (Minn.), Sen. Martin Heinrich (N.M.) and former Rep. Mondaire Jones (N.Y.).

Squad members alone in calls to impeach Clarence Thomas after bombshell report

Three members of "The Squad" have renewed calls for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to be impeached following a bombshell report on his relationship with a major Republican donor, however their Democratic colleagues have so far called for lesser measures.

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) — all members of the progressive “Squad” — have called for Thomas to be impeached following revelations that he received lavish gifts and trips from a Republican billionaire donor over the course of his career on the court. 

The ProPublica report that exposed the alleged gifts sparked outrage from Democrats, but the trio of progressive House Democrats have so far been alone in calls for his impeachment.

“This is beyond party or partisanship,” Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter last week. “This degree of corruption is shocking — almost cartoonish. Thomas must be impeached.”

“I've said it before and I'll say it again: Clarence Thomas needs to be impeached,” Omar said on Twitter on the same day.

Tlaib noted public confidence in the court was at “an all time low” and blasted Thomas for accepting" luxury trips from a billionaire mega-donor while doing the bidding of right-wing extremists from the bench.”

“Thomas must be impeached and SCOTUS needs a binding code of ethics,” Tlaib said on Twitter.

Thomas has defended his actions, saying he was advised early in his tenure on the court that he did not have to report trips from "close personal friends."

"I have endeavored to follow that counsel throughout my tenure, and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines,” Thomas added.

While those House progressives have called for Thomas to be impeached, other Democrats have backed a probe into Thomas and efforts to create an enforceable code of conduct.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the top lawmaker on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said his panel would act on the allegations laid out in the report.

“The highest court in the land shouldn’t have the lowest ethical standards,” Durbin said in a statement last week. “Today’s report demonstrates, yet again, that Supreme Court Justices must be held to an enforceable code of conduct… the Senate Judiciary Committee will act.”

A group of 16 congressional Democrats, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), sent a letter to Chief Supreme Court Justice John Roberts urging him to launch an investigation into the claims against Thomas.

“We believe that it is your duty as Chief Justice ‘to safeguard public faith in the judiciary,’ and that fulfilling that duty requires swift, thorough, independent and transparent investigation into these allegations,” the letter reads.

House Democrats introduce legislation to bar Trump from office under 14th Amendment

A group of 40 House Democrats, led by Rep. David Cicilline (R.I.), introduced legislation on Thursday to bar former President Trump from holding future federal office under the 14th Amendment.

Section 3 of the amendment states that no one who previously took an oath to support the Constitution and engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” shall "hold any office, civil or military, under the United States."

Cicilline said in a release announcing the legislation that Trump “very clearly” engaged in an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, with the intention of overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election. 

“You don’t get to lead a government you tried to destroy,” he said. 

The release states that the bill includes testimony and evidence demonstrating how Trump engaged in the insurrection. 

The bill also specifically describes how Trump helped encourage the violence on Jan. 6, tried to intimidate state and federal officials when they did not support his false claims of the election being stolen and refused to denounce the mob that stormed the Capitol for hours during the riot. 

“The 14th Amendment makes clear that based on his past behavior, Donald Trump is disqualified from ever holding federal office again and, under Section 5, Congress has the power to pass legislation to implement this prohibition,” Cicilline said. 

Cicilline, who served as an impeachment manager during Trump’s first impeachment, sent a letter to his Democratic colleagues last month to solicit co-sponsors for a bill to bar Trump from office. 

Trump was impeached on a charge of “incitement of insurrection” in the aftermath of Jan. 6, but he was acquitted by the Senate. This was the second time Trump was impeached, with the first coming in December 2019. 

Last month, Trump became the first major candidate to announce a run for the presidency in 2024. 

The 14th Amendment was ratified in the aftermath of the Civil War, when ex-Confederates and seceded states rejoined the Union.