Durbin announces Judiciary hearing on Texas abortion law, Supreme Court 'shadow docket'

WASHINGTON — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., announced Friday that his committee will hold a hearing about Texas’ new restrictive abortion law and, more broadly, the decisions made by the Supreme Court on an emergency basis.

“This anti-choice law is a devastating blow to Americans' constitutional rights — and the Court allowed it to see the light of day without public deliberation or transparency,” Durbin said in a statement.

He added, “At a time when public confidence in government institutions has greatly eroded, we must examine not just the constitutional impact of allowing the Texas law to take effect, but also the conservative Court’s abuse of the shadow docket.”

“Shadow docket” refers to emergency decisions made by the high court that doesn’t follow normal procedure. The court not only used it to refuse to block the Texas law this week, but Durbin noted the justices also made shadow docket decisions last week “overturning the Biden Administration’s Covid-19 eviction moratorium and rejecting the Administration’s decision to repeal the Trump Administration’s 'Remain in Mexico' program.”

Durbin said that the shadow docket diminishes public confidence in the court and leaves lower courts “in the dark about how to apply the Court’s precedent moving forward.”

The chairman did not specify when the committee will hold the hearing. Lawmakers return from recess later this month.

Democrats in Congress are scrambling to figure out any legislative options that could protect women in Texas seeking abortions, but with narrow majorities in both chambers, legislation is likely to be difficult.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said that once Congress returns to Washington, she plans to bring up a bill that would codify Roe v. Wade, protecting women’s reproductive rights across the country. While it could pass the Democratic-controlled House, it likely wouldn’t have a chance for passage in the Senate because Democrats wouldn’t be able to overcome a filibuster.