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As the Biden administration warns of a potential surge in violence following a near-future ruling from the Supreme Court on abortion, top Democrats in the House appear to remain at odds with their party in the Senate on whether Congress should take action to ramp up security for the court’s justices, or leave it to law enforcement.
Speaking to Fox News on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., seemingly expressed opposition to providing protection for justices and their families, insisting that law enforcement officials should be the ones to determine whether the threats they receive warrant a response.
“I think that any need for protection should relate to whatever threat that is there,” Pelosi said. “And that’s a judgment that is made by our law enforcement.”
Asked about a bipartisan measure that successfully passed the Senate in a unanimous vote and whether she would bring that bill forward for a vote in the House, Pelosi reiterated that she believes additional protection “depends on the threat and that’s up to the law enforcement.”
The legislation, dubbed the Supreme Court Police Parity Act, was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., amid protests following a leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court which signaled federal protections for abortion granted under Roe v. Wade could soon be overturned.
The measure would provide Supreme Court justices and members of their family with around-the-clock security protection. The legislation also allows Supreme Court police to arrest individuals who interfere with the court’s ability to perform its duties and creates a criminal penalty for individuals who impede or obstruct those duties.
Some House Democrats claim that bill does not go far enough in offering protections and have called for additional protections for law clerks and other staff members at the Supreme Court.
Last week, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said in a statement that the security protection should be extended to law clerks and staff who “have increasingly faced threats to their physical safety.”
“Violence or the threat of violence against judges, their clerks, or the families of judicial-branch officials is never acceptable,” Hoyer said. “Our majority is determined to protect those who serve our country in the federal judiciary, and we believe that this effort must extend not only to the family members of judges and justices but to the family members of the clerks and staff who support them and have increasingly faced threats to their physical safety, which is done in Rep. Stanton’s Supreme Court Families Security Act.”
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told Fox News on Thursday that he believes House Democrats shouldn’t “hold up” the process of advancing the Senate-passed measure.
“They want to expand the categories of people who are covered. I’m all for that, but they shouldn’t hold up the whole process to achieve that goal,” Durbin said. “We ought to be working on this actively. It should have been done a long time.”
Durbin also said he takes political violence “very seriously” following the release of a May 13 memo from the Department of Homeland Security that details ongoing investigations into threats to “burn down or storm” the Supreme Court building.
“I think we’re seeing evidence of that in so many different places on so many different levels,” Durbin said of political violence. “I take it very seriously when we talk about domestic terrorism. You know, a lot of that is politically inspired and most of its politically inspired. And so whether it’s on the right or the left, we should make it clear that violence is never ever acceptable as an expression of your political feelings.”
The court’s conservative justices have already faced targeted protests outside their homes following the leak and the DHS memo, first reported by Axios Wednesday, reportedly says the protests “are likely to persist and may increase leading up to and following the issuing of the Court’s official ruling.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told Fox News on Thursday that he hopes the House will “follow the Senate’s lead” and advance the measure to provide additional security to the justices and their families.
“Any judicial officer is entitled to full protection and respect,” Blumenthal said. “Any violence is abhorrent. There is a role and a place for peaceful protest and a time, place, and manner for it that is perfectly appropriate, but violence ought to be deterred by strong steps and I hope that the House will follow the Senate’s lead.”
Offered the opportunity to comment on the DHS memo warning of a surge in violence after a decision on Roe v. Wade is handed down, Blumenthal said he is “deeply concerned about violent extremism and domestic terrorism on the far right” and insisted that racists in America, based on intelligence community briefings he has reviewed, “pose the most persistent and lethal threat to our internal security right now.”
“There’s a real and present danger of violent extremism surrounding Roe but also other events that may be happening,” he said.
Fox News’ Anders Hagstrom and David Spunt contributed to this article.