Senate GOP Walks Out of Hearing in Protest of Supreme Court Subpoenas

Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee meeting turned heated as Democrats voted to subpoena a major conservative donor and a prominent activist connected to the Supreme Court’s ethics scandals.

Shortly before Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called a vote on authorizing the subpoenas, the Republican members stormed out of the hearing room in the Hart Building.

The motion for subpoenas passed with 11 Democratic votes, with not a single Republican left in the room by the end of the roll call.

Durbin proceeded with the vote to prevent Republicans from successfully delaying it until the following week.

The meeting followed weeks of partisan fighting among Judiciary Committee members over plans to subpoena conservative donor Harlan Crow and activist Leonard Leo, co-chairman of the Federalist Society, after revelations by ProPublica about their involvement in providing luxury vacations to conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

Subsequent to Crow and Leo’s refusal to cooperate with their ethics investigation, Durbin and subcommittee Chair Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) advanced the subpoenas.

Durbin argued that his committee staff had worked for “months” to try to obtain information from Crow and Leo about gifts and personal hospitality extended to Thomas and Alito.

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) argued that the subpoenas are “invalid” due to a violation of Senate and committee rules.

Cruz noted that the vote didn’t conclude within two hours, violating the committee’s rules, and argued that there was no quorum present when the subpoenas were approved.

The approval of the subpoenas is largely symbolic as it would require 60 Senate votes to enforce them, and no GOP senator has indicated support.

Republican Senators filed 177 amendments in an effort to slow down the subpoenas.

Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) set the tone of the meeting, calling the authorization of subpoenas “garbage” and Democratic efforts to address the court’s ethics a “complete joke” and “crap.”

“This is about an ongoing effort to destroy this court, to destroy [conservative Justice] Clarence Thomas’s reputation,” Graham said.

Republicans accused Durbin of violating the committee’s Rule IV, which requires a roll call vote before ending debate on a matter and bringing it to a vote.

The panel approved the nominations of Kasubhai and Lee on party-line votes, with each receiving 11 “yes” votes.

— Updated at 12:41 p.m.

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