The House gave final approval on Tuesday to legislation that would allow 24-hour security protection for the families of Supreme Court justices, a week after a man carrying a gun, knife and zip ties was arrested near the judge’s home. Brett Kavanaugh after threatening to kill the justice.
The Senate unanimously passed the bill last month, but it has languished in the House as Democrats sought to expand the measure to include protections for the families of court officials. Republicans increased pressure to pass the bill after the arrest at Kavanaugh’s home, saying Democrats were essentially trying to intimidate judges as the court weighs a possible landmark abortion decision.
The House passed the security measure overwhelmingly, 396-27. All the votes in the opposition came from the Democrats.
“By passing this bill as it stands, we are sending a clear message to left-wing radicals: You cannot intimidate Supreme Court justices,” said House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.
The Senate voted to expand security protections shortly after a draft court opinion was leaked that would overturn Roe v. Wade and would drastically reduce abortion rights in about half of the states. Supporters of the legislation said threats to judges have increased since then, with protesters sometimes gathering outside their homes.
“We don’t have time to spare when it comes to protecting court members and their families,” said Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, the bill’s sponsor. “If, God forbid, something were to happen…shame on the members of the House of Representatives. It would be on them for their failure to act on this bipartisan, commonsense bill.”
Democrats noted that Supreme Court justices already have 24-hour security details. They said they also supported extending security to immediate families. But they wanted “a small concession” to include security for the families of court staff, such as the lawyers who work for the judges and help them prepare for cases.
“Democrats also want to protect employees and families who are receiving threats from right-wing activists,” said Representative Ted Lieu, D-Calif.
But last week’s arrest clearly brought new emphasis to the bill and new pressure from Republicans seeking a vote. Democrats said they would pursue protections for the families of court officials separately.
“We can no longer delay passing the only version of the bill that they would apparently agree on,” Lieu said of the Republicans.
In the Kavanaugh case, authorities charged Nicholas John Roske, 26, of Simi Valley, Calif., with the attempted murder of a judge. Dressed in black, he arrived by taxi outside Kavanaugh’s Maryland home at around 1 am on Wednesday.
He saw two US marshals guarding the house and walked in the other direction, calling 911 to say he was having suicidal thoughts and was also planning to kill Kavanaugh, according to court documents.
Roske said he found the judge’s address on the Internet.