While the scandal surrounding Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas continues to expand, there have been new calls for Congress to do something (anything!) as a way of punishing Thomas and making sure a justice never again engages in such unethical behavior.
But what can Congress do? Well, quite a lot, based on what the Constitution allows, as explained in an incredibly informative article in The Washington Post from Jesús Rodríguez, who explains there’s an “arsenal of tactics at their disposal to police the Supreme Court.”
They could threaten to drain the court’s budget during its yearly review. They could urge the Department of Justice to appoint a special counsel to investigate potential charges. They could consolidate support for impeaching a member of the bench, as some members of the House have unsuccessfully tried to do with respect to Thomas.
Or Congress could do what the Constitution specifies it should do: Pass legislation.
On Tuesday, an eagle-eyed photographer captured an image of notes belonging to Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) that suggested that Feinstein could return as soon as next week — in which case the committee could move legislation to the Senate floor more quickly. (Any bill would face steep odds in the GOP-controlled House.)
There’s also the path that Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and his colleague in the House, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) have done: Refer the matter to another official body that has the power to bring Thomas to heel:
(Whitehouse and Johnson) sent a letter urging the Judicial Conference of the United States, the agency charged with administering the courts, to refer Thomas to the attorney general for investigation. A top official in the conference forwarded the letter to an internal committee for further action.
Something has to be done. All it takes is political will and a desire to make sure the highest court in the country doesn’t become a laughingstock.