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Bipartisan Senate duo offers bill to fund stepped-up court security

Legislation would appropriate funds to backstop U.S. Marshals Service, Supreme Court police protection efforts

Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., is seen in the U.S. Capitol before the Senate luncheons on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.
Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., is seen in the U.S. Capitol before the Senate luncheons on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Two senators from opposing sides of the aisle on Tuesday teamed up to introduce an emergency spending bill totaling $19.4 million to pay for increased security for Supreme Court justices and their families.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland deployed U.S. Marshals to provide around-the-clock protection of justices after the May leak of a draft Supreme Court decision that would overturn the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade. An armed man who authorities say aimed to kill Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh was arrested outside of Kavanaugh’s home last week.

Sens. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., and Mark Warner, D-Va., introduced a bill Tuesday that would provide $10.3 million to the U.S. Marshals Service and $9.1 million to the Supreme Court for the current fiscal year to pay for the unexpected security costs. 

The bill marks Congress’ first concrete step toward providing more funding for judicial security following Politico’s publication of the draft decision in early May.

On Tuesday, the House cleared, 396-27, a bill the Senate supported unanimously last month that would expand the Supreme Court Police’s authority to protect the family members of justices. Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Chris Coons, D-Del., sponsored the legislation, which now goes to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.

Hagerty and Warner’s bill would provide the U.S. Marshals Service and Supreme Court Police additional resources to provide security for those already protected under law and those added by the Cornyn-Coons legislation. 

Despite the Senate’s unanimous support for the Cornyn-Coons legislation, the bill ran into delays in the House, where Democrats aimed to give the Supreme Court Marshal the authority to extend protection to Supreme Court employees. 

However, Senate Republicans opposed adding the employees, as Cornyn said that “nobody knows” who the staff are.

The Supreme Court Marshal and Supreme Court Police are responsible for the security of the court, with the U.S. Marshals Service providing assistance as needed when requested to do so by the Marshal, U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Drew Wade said earlier this month. 

“The USMS is currently assisting the Marshal of the Supreme Court in response to increased security concerns stemming from the unauthorized release of the draft opinion,” Wade said. 

Wade declined to comment at the time on the cost of the increased coverage and whether the U.S. Marshals Service needed additional funding to pay for it.  

The new bill from Hagerty and Warner comes after updated warnings from agency officials that without a cash infusion, the Supreme Court and U.S. Marshals Service would need to seek transfers of funds from other accounts, including for U.S. District Courts and U.S. Courts of Appeals, an aide briefed on the matter said.

“We want to make certain the Supreme Court is properly protected, and rather than have them scramble around and try to go through a very cumbersome process of using their transfer authority, this is something that addresses the issue immediately,” Hagerty said Tuesday.

He and Warner arrived at the $19.4 million figure in their new bill after talks with U.S. Marshals Service and Supreme Court officials, Hagerty said. Hagerty said he and Warner have been working with the Senate Appropriations Committee and leadership on their stand-alone bill.

Hagerty is a member of the Appropriations Committee, including the Commerce-Justice-Science panel, which funds the U.S. Marshals Service. Warner isn’t on Appropriations.

Hagerty briefly placed a hold on the $40 billion Ukraine military and humanitarian supplemental bill last month while calling for an additional $10 million in Supreme Court security funding.

That measure would have redirected that $10 million from the Federal Protective Service, which provides security for federal agency buildings and courthouses. His new proposal with Warner wouldn’t be offset by cutting or repurposing funds from elsewhere in the budget; instead, it would simply be deemed emergency spending, which would add to the deficit.

The potential timing and vehicle for passage of the legislation is unclear, as both chambers are scheduled to be out of session for the July Fourth recess the week after next.

“This will be a bipartisan introduction, so it will just take a little more work to get this through,” Hagerty said. “Our goal is to get this done as quickly as we possibly can.”

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