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Funding mostly absent from Supreme Court security discussion

Aidan Quigley, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — Threats against the nation’s highest court are being taken seriously at the uppermost levels of government in the aftermath of this month’s leak of a draft Supreme Court ruling that would overturn Roe v. Wade.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland earlier this month deployed U.S. marshals to provide “around the clock” security at justices’ homes. The Department of Homeland Security is investigating threats that include “burning down or storming the U.S. Supreme Court and murdering Justices and their clerks, members of Congress, and lawful demonstrators,” according to an internal memo obtained by NBC News.

But even as the court prepares to release its official ruling, which could come during any opinion day before the end of June, such threats aren’t translating into more funding to protect justices and their families.

Thus far, lawmakers can’t even agree on Senate-passed legislation that would extend the statutory authority of the Supreme Court’s marshal and police force to protect the families of justices and court officers. Democrats want to add language protecting the families of court employees, whom Republicans suspect of leaking the draft opinion.

While a compromise could yet be hashed out, there hasn’t been much sense of urgency when it comes to added financial resources. Some of that may be due to deficit-spending fatigue on Capitol Hill, but at least one spending hawk says he has a way to give the Supreme Court’s security apparatus extra cash without adding to the deficit.

Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., says $10 million could come from the Federal Protective Service, which safeguards federal agency buildings and courthouses. The self-funded Homeland Security division charges other agencies a fee for its security services, estimated to bring in about $1.65 billion this year.

 

Hagerty’s bill would transfer the funds to the Supreme Court to “address increased security threats against” justices and their families as well as officers and employees of the court. If the Federal Protective Service finds itself coming up short to carry out its regular duties, Hagerty’s bill would allow them to charge higher fees.

Hagerty, who was one of 11 GOP senators to vote against the $40.1 billion Ukraine aid package last week, initially held up that measure in order to draw attention to his court security proposal. At the time, senators said further study was needed and they didn’t want to delay the Ukraine measure.

“He kind of figured to fight this battle another day,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune. “There were a series of conversations around it.”

‘Still working through’

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