-By Andrew Reinbach
June 27, 2011- Are Congressional Democrats secret Republicans? You'd think so if you listen to what they do about Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
How else explain their long silence since Justice Thomas' January confession to perjury — following a complaint detailing said perjury to the Judicial Conference of the United States, filed on January 21st by watchdog groups Common Cause and the Alliance for Justice? How do you explain their silence about his, and his wife's, glaring conflicts of interest?
Is this really the run-up to the 2012 elections?
Even given that successfully impeaching Thomas in a Republican House is a non-starter, Justice Thomas is a gift to the Democrats this election — a golden opportunity to hammer on the notion that republics like ours are built on laws, not men, and that a principle good enough to impeach President Clinton is good enough for a man with the Constitution in his hands.
And yet: "There's not a lot of appetite to take this issue up in the House, and in the Senate, there's absolutely no appetite for it," says one Washington insider.
What you get instead is a lot of whining. "This was an issue that was a priority for (Rep. Anthony) Weiner, but it's not an issue my guy is forward on," says a senior aide to a ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. "He thinks it's an important issue, but not one he where wants to take the lead; members of Congress claim issues and Weiner was leading on this — it's just how things are done around here."
Stuff and nonsense, says the Washington insider. "They were pretty quiet about it before Weiner imploded" in a flood of Tweets.
Rep. Weiner had been making much hay about Justice Thomas in the weeks after the Common Cause letter to the Judicial Conference, a complaint to the Missouri Bar Association by citizens group Protect our Elections (Justice Thomas is a member of the Missouri Bar), a good deal of press coverage on the subject, and, finally, his March 1st introduction, with Rep. Christopher Murphy (D.-Ct.), of HR 863, said bill wanting Supreme Court Justices to be governed by the same ethics rules as other federal judges. That bill was referred to the House's Subcommitttee on Courts, Commercial and Administrative Law on March 21st and has since disappeared from view.
Luckily, the general reluctance among Democrats to keep the Thomas issue alive is not universal.
"We have picked up this stick and we'll be running with it as far as we can," says Francis Creighton, Murphy's chief of staff. Murphy is planning to run for Sen. Joseph Lieberman's seat (I.-Ct.) when he retires in 2012.
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D.-NY), ranking Democrat on the House Rules Committee, is likewise pitching in. "Louise can't understand why more people aren't concerned about this issue," says Victoria Dillon, Rep. Slaughter's press secretary. "She's fired up and wants more people to get involved."
Rep. Slaughter is circulating an on line petition demanding Justice Thomas explain his apparent conflicts of interest and ethical lapses as outlined in a recent front-page story in the New York Times.
Whether the two members of Congress are the first in a general Democratic stampede toward the Thomas issue is another matter, and in fact, little else has been heard from a House delegation consumed by the on-going negotiations over the debt ceiling and other high-profile issues.