WASHINGTON ― Senate Democrats on Thursday abruptly canceled a vote to subpoena Republican Texas billionaire Harlan Crow and conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo for more information regarding their relationships with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas after Republicans filed a last-minute gambit to stall the proceedings.
“It is going to be a long day and we’re going to get nothing done ... you’re gonna have a complete shit show,” warned Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, ahead of the planned vote.
Democrats planned to pursue their testimony as part of an ethics probe into the high court. In response, Graham and fellow Republicans offered 88 GOP amendments spanning gamut of issues, from the court to unrelated matters on immigration and even the deceased pedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Republicans offered amendments to subpoena liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor and her clerks in response to a report that her staff asked that her book be promoted when she was booked to speak. They filed a subpoena for the emails and contacts made by the journalists at ProPublica who reported on ethical breaches by Thomas and fellow Justice Samuel Alito. Another amendment sought to subpoena the GPS location coordinates for the cell phones of President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. And they asked the committee to subpoena Epstein’s private jet flight records.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the chairman of the committee, told reporters he would “absolutely” hold the vote again but that the committee simply had no time to process all the GOP amendments on Thursday.
“Due to scheduling issues, we were unable to complete the markup today,” Durbin said in a statement after the hearing adjourned. “We will continue our efforts to authorize subpoenas in the near future. The highest court in the land cannot have the lowest ethical standards.”
The subpoenas of Crow and Leo are part of the committee’s investigation into the Supreme Court’s failure to adhere to a judicial code of ethics.
Democrats said Crow failed to adequately cooperate with the committee regarding his relationship with Thomas and the lavish gifts he provided to the justice during his decades-long career on the court. The gifts reportedly included the facilitation of a generous real estate deal, several free luxury vacations, and paid private school tuition for Thomas’ nephew.
Durbin said the inquiry into Thomas was necessary in order to pass legislation establishing “a binding code of conduct” for the Supreme Court, which he said faced “an ethical crisis.”
Crow had previously dismissed the effort as “nothing more than a stunt aimed at undermining a sitting Supreme Court justice for ideological and political purposes,” according to The Associated Press.
The committee on Wednesday also planned to authorize a subpoena for Leo, who was reportedly involved in organizing a free luxury fishing vacation for Justice Samuel Alito in 2008.
Before delaying the vote, Durbin declared that the effort to subpoena Crow and Leo was not “a vendetta against conservatives.”
Instead, he said that the subpoenas were necessary to investigate the court’s failure to adopt a binding code of ethics and to not “allow them to thwart congressional authority.” All of this could be resolved, however, if the court simply adopted an ethics code.
“It is within the power of the chief justice and the associate justices to solve this problem by noon today,” Durbin said.
An additional planned subpoena for GOP donor Robin Arkley II was no longer necessary since he produced adequate information to the committee, Durbin announced Wednesday.