The House on Tuesday voted to pass a Senate-approved measure that would provide enhanced security to the families of Supreme Court justices, sending the measure to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.
The final vote was 396-27, with more than two-dozen Democrats voting against the bill.
The bill, which passed the Senate unanimously last month, would provide security to family members of the high court’s justices – similar protections afforded to the family members of some legislative and executive branch officials.
The news comes in the wake of heightened partisan tensions surrounding the Supreme Court, specifically in the wake of a leaked draft opinion which shows that the high court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that guaranteed the right to an abortion.
The Senate passed the bill, co-authored by Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, in early May, just days after the leaked draft opinion was published by Politico.
The court is expected to issue a decision in the case by the end of June. A bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security warned of the possibility of violence in advance of the final decision.
Lawmakers, largely Republicans, have called for the measure to pass immediately, citing an urgent need to pass the bill — especially in the wake of an armed man being arrested near Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s home last week.
The man, Nicholas John Roske, 26, of Simi Valley, California, was armed with a pistol, a tactical knife, pepper spray, zip ties and other tools and was charged with attempted murder, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.
“Last week, we received a terrifying reminder of the failure to act and what the consequences of that might be,” Sen. Cornyn said on the Senate floor on Monday. “We don't have time to spare when it comes to protecting the members of the court and their families."
Democrats in the House of Representatives were hoping to amend the bill to include security for the high court’s clerks and staff. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., called it “critical to safeguard the families of those who choose to serve their country and their communities as judicial clerks and staff as well.”
But Senate Republicans refused, pledging to block the bill should it return to the chamber.
“The right bill passed the Senate, we’re not going to pass this House bill if it comes over,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Monday. “They need to take up the Senate bill that Senator Cornyn sent them and pass it.”
“The security issue is related to the Supreme Court justices, not to nameless staff that no one knows,” McConnell added.
Even some Senate Democrats were frustrated by the delays imposed by their House counterparts, with Sen. Coons telling The Washington Post on Monday that while he understood and agreed with the notion of including staff members and clerks, he was “surprised and frustrated by the impasse that we’re at.”
After a tense standoff between the two chambers of Congress, House Democrats relented and agreed to put the Senate bill up for a vote as is.
“Nobody doesn't want to protect the justices of the Supreme Court,” Hoyer told reporters on Tuesday, before expressing confusion about why Republicans would not want to expand protection to Supreme Court clerks and staff.
“I can't really give you an explanation,” he told reporters Tuesday. "I don't know why. It is what it is. But we're going to move the bill."