The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to give final congressional approval on Tuesday to a bill that would bolster Supreme Court security in light of threats made against justices ahead of their anticipated ruling curtailing abortion rights.
The legislation, already passed by the Senate, appears to have the necessary votes to get through the House, with President Joe Biden prepared to sign it into law. The measure would expand police protection to the families of the justices and senior officers of the court.
The Supreme Court in the coming weeks is due to rule in a major abortion case from Mississippi. A leaked draft opinion last month showed that its conservative majority is poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
The anticipated ruling on one of the most divisive issues in the United States has led to protests outside the homes of some of the justices. A California man carrying a handgun, ammunition, a crow bar and pepper spray was arrested outside the Maryland home of Justice Brett Kavanaugh on June 8 and charged with attempted murder.
The U.S. Justice Department is also providing additional support to the court’s existing police force.
House Democrats had wanted to add to the legislation protections for the families of clerks and other Supreme Court employees but dropped that provision after Senate Republicans objected.
“The security issue is related to Supreme Court justices, not the nameless staff that no one knows,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on Monday.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer pointed out on Tuesday that “virulent threats” have been made against the court’s clerks since the leak of the opinion.
The federal judiciary is also calling for separate legislation that would offer more protection for all federal judges. The U.S. Marshals Service said judges were subject to 4,511 threats and inappropriate communications in 2021.
(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Washington; Additional reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Andy Sullivan and Will Dunham)