By Aileen Graef and Shawna Mizelle, CNN
Washington (CNN) — Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York said Sunday that some Supreme Court justices are “destroying the legitimacy of the court,” amid a lack of oversight, calling it “profoundly dangerous” for democracy.
“We have a broad level of tools to deal with misconduct, overreach and abuse of power, and the Supreme Court has not been receiving the adequate oversight necessary in order to preserve their own legitimacy,” Ocasio-Cortez told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”
The progressive lawmaker cited recent allegations against Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas over ethics improprieties. Her comments come as the court wrapped up its term with a slew of consequential rulings, including ending affirmative action for college admissions, clocking student loan debt relief and limiting LGBTQ protections.
Alito did not disclose a luxury 2008 trip he took in which a hedge fund billionaire flew him on a private jet, even though the businessman would later repeatedly ask the Supreme Court to intervene on his behalf, ProPublica reported. In a highly unusual move, Alito preemptively disputed the nature of the report before it published last month.
Thomas, meanwhile, has fielded sharp criticism after a separate ProPublica report detailed his relationship with GOP megadonor Harlan Crow, including luxury travel and other lavish gifts that Thomas received from Crow, as well as Crow’s purchase from Thomas and his family the home where the justice’s mother still lives.
The real estate transaction and the bulk of the hospitality went unreported on Thomas’ annual financial disclosures, as did Crow’s reported payments for the tuition of a grandnephew of the justice.
Thomas has defended the omission of the Crow-financed travel from his reports, saying he was advised at the time that he was not required to report the hospitality.
“If Chief Justice Roberts will not come before the Congress for an investigation voluntarily, I believe we should be considering subpoenas, we should be considering investigations, we should pass much more binding and stringent ethics guidelines,” Ocasio-Cortez said Sunday.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, previously said his committee would mark up legislation on Supreme Court ethics after lawmakers return from their July 4 recess. Durbin had also asked Chief Justice John Roberts to appear before the Judiciary panel – a request that Roberts declined in April.
Ocasio-Cortez on Sunday also called on the Biden administration to keep pursuing student loan cancellation after the Supreme Court blocked the president’s student loan forgiveness plan Friday, rejecting a program aimed at delivering up to $20,000 of relief to millions of borrowers.
“People should not be incurring interest during this 12-month on-ramp period,” she said, referring to the administration’s proposal to help borrowers avoid penalties if they miss a payment during the first 12 months after student loan repayments resume in October.
“So, I highly urge the administration to consider suspending those interest payments. Of course, we still believe in pursuing student loan cancellation and acting faster than that 12-month period wherever possible.”
“We truly believe that the president – Congress has given the president this authority. The Supreme Court is far overreaching their authority. And I believe, frankly, that we really need to be having conversations about judicial review as a check on the courts as well,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
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