Senate Committee Puts An End To GOP Plan That Would Target Court Journalists

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During recent deliberations in the Senate Judiciary Committee, panel members rejected a proposed amendment from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) meant to restrict journalists covering the Supreme Court from disclosing materials such as draft opinions without approval. The context is the early disclosure of the court’s decision-making process in the case in which it formally overturned Roe v. Wade, setting abortion rights back nationwide.

The vote on Cotton’s proposal, which would have demanded journalists pledge not to make such disclosures to obtain press recognition, was along party lines, with 11 members opposing and ten in favor. Cotton’s amendment would have also required annual financial disclosures covering the journalist’s work in order to receive access. Concerns apply here of restricting the basic activities of the press, which often involve revealing critical information that has otherwise been kept secret.

It remains unknown to the public who leaked the draft opinion that would overturn Roe, though Republicans have in the aftermath broadly alleged political maneuvers that put conservative Justices at risk. In questioning in Congress, allegations of failing to sufficiently apply the legal prohibitions on intimidating conduct directed at a judge have repeatedly come up amid discussions of the protests seen near judges’ homes and the lack of the kind of consistent prosecution for participating that Republicans wanted to see. Federal leadership has responded to accusations of misconduct by pointing to the comprehensive security plan set into motion by Attorney General Merrick Garland as concerns about judges’ safety were circulating.

Another rejected amendment from the recent Judiciary panel deliberations was from Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and would’ve meant ethics standards that were under consideration would only take effect once the individual responsible for leaking the decision overturning Roe was identified.

Other recent votes in Congress have dealt with funding bills, including for the Federal Aviation Administration and the Defense Department. In House deliberations, Republican amendments to block further security assistance to Ukraine, upend programs in diversity across multiple federal agencies, and slash federal support for air travel to underserved communities all failed as processes continue.