Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut on Sunday called Justice Samuel Alito “stunningly wrong” in his contention that Congress should stay out of the Supreme Court’s business and stop trying to impose ethics rules.
“It is just wrong on the facts to say that Congress doesn’t have anything to do with the rules guiding the Supreme Court. In fact, from the very beginning, Congress has set those rules,” Murphy told CNN’s Kasie Hunt on “State of the Union.”
“But it is even more disturbing that Alito feels the need to insert himself into a congressional debate. And it is just more evidence that these justices on the Supreme Court, these conservative justices, just see themselves as politicians. They just see themselves as a second legislative body that has just as much power and right to impose their political will on the country as Congress does.”
But Alito, a conservative appointed by President George W. Bush, maintained in an interview published in The Wall Street Journal’s opinion section Friday that “Congress did not create the Supreme Court” and doesn’t have the authority to regulate it.
“I marvel at all the nonsense that has been written about me in the last year,” Alito said in the interview, adding that “the traditional idea about how judges and justices should behave is they should be mute.”
The high court has repeatedly evaded requests in recent months to adopt a binding code of conduct, instead responding to allegations of ethical improprieties by releasing statements outlining and defending its current procedures.
That has failed to satisfy critics in the wake of an array of media reports shining a spotlight on how the justices are leading their lives off the bench, triggering questions about whether they are improperly benefiting from their positions.
“They are going to bend the law in order to impose their right-wing view of how the country should work on the rest of us,” Murphy said Sunday of the court’s conservative justices.
“And it’s why we need to pass this commonsense ethics legislation to at least make sure we know that these guys aren’t in bed having their lifestyles paid for by conservative donors, as we have unfortunately seen in these latest revelations,” Murphy said.
The ethics legislation is not expected to get the 60 votes required to advance on the floor of the Democratic-controlled Senate. And even if it did, the GOP-led House is unlikely to take it up.