Senate Judiciary meeting on subpoenas of Harlan Crow and Leonard Leo devolves into partisan bickering

WASHINGTON — A Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Thursday that was supposed to include consideration of subpoenas related to Supreme Court ethics issues devolved into partisan bickering after Democrats tried to block Republicans from debating a nominee the panel is considering.

The business meeting became tense after Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., refused to let Republicans speak about a judicial nominee under consideration, saying that GOP members already had two opportunities to speak about the individual.

“Congratulations on destroying the United States Senate Judiciary Committee,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said to Durbin after Republicans then refused to vote on the subpoenas.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., warned that Durbin’s refusal to let senators speak about nominees would result in consequences.

Meanwhile, Durbin defended the subpoenas that he had planned to bring up for consideration to conservative activists Harlan Crow and Leonard Leo as part of the panel’s ongoing probe into Supreme Court ethics.

“I’m only seeking subpoenas for two people who have refused to comply with this committee’s oversight request for months,” he said at the meeting.

Ahead of the meeting, Durbin told reporters that Republicans had filed 177 amendments, which could take hours to go through.

“It will be a shitshow,” Ranking Member Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told NBC News on Wednesday, “If they bring it up, we got tons of amendments.”

Durbin said that the GOP’s effort is intended to elongate the meeting and put Democrats in a tough spot with controversial votes.

The potential for hours of amendment votes could push a final vote on the subpoenas into the afternoon, but would likely not change the likely outcome: the committee voting along party lines to issue the subpoenas for Crow and Leo.

ProPublica reported in April that Justice Clarence Thomas accepted trips funded by Crow, a billionaire donor. In June, the outlet reported that Justice Samuel Alito took an undisclosed fishing trip to Alaska in 2008 with GOP donor Robin Arkley II that was coordinated by Leo.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court adopted what it described as a new code of conduct following allegations of ethics lapses. Its effect is likely to be limited because the justices would enforce it themselves.

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