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House Democrat is proposing a constitutional amendment to reverse Supreme Court’s immunity decision

Jul 3, 2024, 4:17 PM

FILE - The Supreme Court is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 4, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott A...

FILE - The Supreme Court is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 4, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A leading House Democrat is preparing a constitutional amendment in response to the Supreme Court’s landmark immunity ruling, seeking to reverse the decision “and ensure that no president is above the law.”

Rep. Joseph Morelle of New York, the top Democrat on the House Administration Committee, sent a letter to colleagues informing them of his intent to file the resolution, which would kickstart what’s traditionally a cumbersome amendment process.

“This amendment will do what SCOTUS failed to do — prioritize our democracy,” Morelle said in a statement to AP.

In referring to Donald Trump, Morelle said the former president “must be held accountable for his decisions. I urge my colleagues to support my amendment and stand with me on the front line to protect our democracy.”

It’s the most significant legislative response yet to the decision this week from the court’s conservative majority, which stunned Washington and drew a sharp dissent from the court’s liberal justices warning of the perils to democracy, particularly as Trump seeks a return to the White House. Still, the effort stands almost no chance of succeeding in this Congress.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said that presidents have “absolute immunity” from criminal prosecution for actions take within their official duties — a decision that throws into doubt the Justice Department’s cases against Trump, including his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Trump and his allies celebrated the ruling by the court, which includes three justices appointed by the former president, and his legal team immediately moved to delay sentencing for his felony conviction in an unrelated hush money case in New York state court that had been scheduled for next week. The judge agreed to push off the sentencing until fall.

Utah politicians mixed after Supreme Court decision on presidential immunity

The outcome all but ensures the federal cases against Trump will not be resolved before the November election when he faces a likely rematch with President Joe Biden.

While the constitutional amendment process would likely take years, and in fact may never come to fruition, supporters believe it is the most surefire way, even beyond a new law, to enshrine the norm that presidents can face consequences for their actions.

“This amendment will guarantee that no public officer of the United States — including the president — is able to evade the accountability that any other American would face for violating our laws,” Morelle wrote in a letter to colleagues this week.

He quoted from Justice Sonya Sotomayor, who led the dissent, and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson who joined in dissenting, before summing up his in his own words: “Presidents are citizens, not tyrants.”

Another Democrat, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, said Monday she planned to file articles of impeachment against the justices over the ruling, which she said represents “an assault on American democracy.”

“It is up to Congress to defend our nation from this authoritarian capture,” Ocasio-Cortez said on social media. “I intend on filing articles of impeachment upon our return.”

Congress can launch the constitutional amendment process and then send it to the states for ratification. Such a resolution takes a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate, which is highly unlikely at this time of divided government, and ratification by three-fourths of the states.

So far, there have been 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

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House Democrat is proposing a constitutional amendment to reverse Supreme Court’s immunity decision