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Lawmakers turn up pressure on Thomas, Kagan over health care conflict questions

Members of Congress are amplifying their calls to judicial and Justice Department officials demanding investigations of two Supreme Court justices’ alleged conflicts of interest in the health care reform case pending at the Court.

Since the Court agreed to consider the constitutionality of the federal health care reform law’s individual mandate as well as several other substantive and procedural issues related to the law, calls from members of Congress for Justices Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan to sit out have grown louder.

Friday New York Democrat Rep. Louise Slaughter sent a letter, signed by 52 House members, to the U.S. Judicial Conference requesting a Justice Department investigation into Thomas’ initial failure to include on financial disclosures his wife’s income from organizations opposing the health care law. It’s the second time the lawmaker has asked the Conference to refer the matter to the U.S. Attorney General.

In January, Thomas amended the disclosure forms, calling the initial omission of his wife, Virginia Thomas’ income from the Heritage Foundation an oversight attributable to a “misunderstanding of the filing instructions.”

Meanwhile Senate Republicans are also pressing Attorney General Eric Holder over the health care case, seeking information on whether Kagan’s work as solicitor general creates a conflict of interest that precludes her involvement in the case.

According to Politico, Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, sent a letter to Holder saying the Justice Department has handled questions about Kagan in a “highly questionable manner” and demanding clarification on Kagan’s role.

“Your Department’s refusal to provide information to the Congress that could eliminate this apparent conflict of interest only undermines … confidence [in the administration of justice] further,” the letter stated.

Emails recently released from the Justice Department reveal that, in 2010, then-Solicitor General Kagan called Senate support for the health care bill “simply amazing.”

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