No Fencing at the United States Supreme Court Act would ban permanent fencing there, as existed for…
GovTrack Insider – Medium
No Fencing at the United States Supreme Court Act would ban permanent fencing there, as existed for 3+ months this summer
Like the Garth Brooks album title, this bill’s sponsors also want “No Fences.”
On May 3, Politico leaked a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn 1973’s Roe v. Wade, repealing its finding of a nationwide constitution right to abortion. Two days later, on May 5, law enforcement erected an eight-foot-tall “non-scalable” fence to protect the Supreme Court building against protesters.
A month and a half later, on June 24, the Court handed down the Roe repeal decision, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. No violent protests ultimately occurred at or around the Supreme Court building.
The fence remained up for just shy of four months, through most of the rest of the summer, but was ultimately removed on August 29.
What the bill does
The No Fencing at the United States Supreme Court Act would prohibit the installation of permanent fencing at the Supreme Court building.
It was introduced in the House on September 13 as H.R. 8810, by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC0).
What supporters say
Supporters argue that a federal government designed, as Abraham Lincoln said, “of the people, by the people, for the people,” should be more accessible to those same people.
“Public property should be open to the public,” Norton said in a press release. “The distance between government and the people has grown, with trust in government, including the Supreme Court, low. We should not entrench that distance further by placing intimidating barriers between ourselves as public servants and the people we serve.”
“While I am not aware of any plans to install permanent fencing at the Supreme Court, temporary security measures often become permanent,” Norton continued, “and this bill will signal congressional opposition to any such effort.”
What opponents say
Opponents may counter that increased Supreme Court building security is necessary in an era of record-low public trust in the institution, with increasing threats against individual justices.
In June, Congress passed the Supreme Court Police Parity Act to expand security for the nine justices. It passed the Senate by unanimous consent, while the House vote was 396–27. Republicans unanimously supported it 205–0, while Democrats largely supported it 191–27.
Opposing Democrats were mostly progressives, who cited the hypocrisy of Congress so easily granting increased security for justices despite doing comparatively little to expand nationwide gun safety measures.
Although GovTrack Insider was unable to locate any explicit calls for permanent fencing at the Supreme Court, a few weeks after the January 6 attack, Acting US Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman called for permanent fencing at the Capitol Building.
“In light of recent events, I can unequivocally say that vast improvements to the physical security infrastructure must be made to include permanent fencing, and the availability of ready, back-up forces in close proximity to the Capitol,” Pittman said in a statement. (This was never actually instituted.)
Odds of passage
The bill has not yet attracted any cosponsors. It awaits a potential vote in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
For comparison, the day after the January 6, 2021 riot and attempted insurrection, a seven-foot “non-scalable” fence was erected around the Capitol Building. Norton introduced the similar No Fencing at the United States Capitol Complex Act, to ban permanent fencing there.
The bill attracted 10 bipartisan cosponsors: five Republicans and five Democrats. It has yet to receive a committee vote.
Why the 10 cosponsors for that bill, but zero for the similar one about the Supreme Court? Likely because the Capitol fencing was still up when the former bill was introduced, while the Supreme Court fencing was already removed by the introduction of the latter bill.
Originally announced as being up for “at least 30 days,” the Capitol fence wasn’t dismantled until six months later in July 2021. However, it was temporarily erected again in March 2022 for President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address.
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This article was written by GovTrack Insider staff writer Jesse Rifkin.
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No Fencing at the United States Supreme Court Act would ban permanent fencing there, as existed for… was originally published in GovTrack Insider on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.