(CNN) — Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin has requested that Chief Justice John Roberts or “another Justice whom you designate” appear before his committee next month for a hearing on Supreme Court ethics rules.
The call for testimony comes after Senate Democrats have raised questions about whether the ethical standards of the high court need to be reviewed or change in the wake of a ProPublica report that found Justice Clarence Thomas has gone on several luxury trips involving travel subsidized by GOP megadonor Harlan Crow.
The hospitality was not disclosed on Thomas’ public financial filings with the Supreme Court, ProPublica said.
Republicans on the Judiciary Committee argued that Roberts should reject the request to testify, warning it would be “a circus.”
“I would not recommend the chief accept the invitation because it would be a circus,” Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn told reporters. “He is a member of a coequal branch of government.”
In his letter, Durbin argued that there is precedent for justices to testify before the committee, citing a hearing in 2011 when then-justices Stephen Breyer and Antonin Scalia appeared for a hearing.
“Since then, there has been a steady stream of revelations regarding Justices falling short of the ethical standards expected of other federal judges and, indeed, of public servants generally. These problems were already apparent back in 2011, and the Court’s decade-long failure to address them has contributed to a crisis of public confidence,” Durbin wrote. “The status quo is no longer tenable.”
The Supreme Court did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Durbin and Senate Democrats sent a letter earlier this month requesting a review of Thomas’s travel and for Roberts to consider a new ethical standard for the court.
The letter noted that more than a decade ago, members of the committee had written the chief justice “urging the Court to adopt a resolution stating that the Justices of the Court abide by the Judicial Conference’s Code of Conduct for United States Judges — a Code that binds every other judge in the federal judiciary,” Durbin wrote.
Senate Republicans on the committee have not expressed the same level of concern as Democrats, instead defending Thomas and arguing there is no evidence that he violated reporting requirements the courts have in place.
“I probably would (decline) if I were him,” Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley said on Thursday reacting to the news of the request for Roberts to appear before the committee.
“They’ve already done what everybody is complaining about they should have done sooner. If they’ve already done it that’s the end of it,” Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said.
Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who is not on the committee, told reporters that she would need to review the precedent for such a request before commenting.
A pair of reports in ProPublica this month unveiled that Thomas accepted luxury travel and gifts from Crow -- and even a real estate transaction -- that went unreported in Thomas’ annual financial disclosures.
Thomas has argued the gifts that were financed by Crow went unreported because he had been advised that he was not required to do so, under an exemption in the court’s disclosure rules for so-called “personal hospitality.”
After scrutiny of those rules by lawmakers, the Judicial Conference -- which operates as the policy-making body for the federal judiciary -- recently closed a loophole in those rules that appears to have covered some of the hospitality Thomas received.
Thomas said that he intended to follow that updated guidance in the future, and a source close to the justice also told CNN in recent days that he planned to amend his disclosure form to report the real estate transaction.
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