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.).