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Durbin says all options are on the table as a Senate committee investigates Supreme Court ethics

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, April 19, 2023, in Washington.
Alex Brandon
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, April 19, 2023, in Washington.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin says the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, has not ruled anything out in its Supreme Court ethics probe, including issuing subpoenas to the justices.

“We haven’t taken anything off the table,” the Illinois Democrat and Senate majority whip said in an interview on WGLT’s Sound Ideas when asked if subpoenas for Supreme Court justices were an option.

Democrats push for a code of ethics for the Supreme Court in hearing Nina Totenberg

Republican mega-donor Harlan Crow refused the committee’s questions about gifts he gave to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Chief Justice John Roberts also rebuffed the judiciary committee's questions.

Durbin said justices can't argue that separation of powers shields them from ethics laws.

“To argue that there’s no connection between what we pass in law and how the courts operate,” Durbin said, "it’s just not true and it shouldn’t be. There are basic standards of integrity that people expect in a courtroom.”

The committee plans to work on ethics reform legislation for the high court.

Durbin said he’d like to continue the judiciary committee’s blue slip practice in which home-state senators can move to block judicial nominees, but said it takes bipartisan cooperation to prevent abuse.

Debt ceiling

On another topic, Durbin said he doesn't think the Biden administration should invoke the 14th Amendment as a way to prevent a debt ceiling default.

Some legal experts suggest the amendment could be applied to the debt limit because it says public debt "shall not be questioned."

“I don’t know that that will work because it will surely be challenged in court and that takes time, days, even weeks. We don’t have that kind of time,” Durbin said. Citing a lack of progress in negotiations, Durbin said he’s “getting nervous” that Congress and the Biden administration may not reach an agreement by June 1.

Congressional Republicans have been insisting on future spending cuts that Democrats have resisted and that budget cuts are a separate issue from the debt ceiling.

Durbin said the near catastrophe will damage the stock market and Americans' retirements and hurt U.S. credibility in the business sector and abroad.

Biden poll

A new poll shows 6 in 10 Americans are concerned about President Biden's mental fitness as he seeks a second term.

Durbin said he has no reservations about Biden serving past his 86th birthday if he wins re-election.

“I have observed President Biden up close. I’ve dealt with him in negotiating directly. We’ve had lengthy conversation. I haven’t seen any deficit in his ability to govern this country.”

Durbin was in Bloomington on Tuesdayto meet with city officials about several projects that are seeking federal funding.

Eric Stock