New rule would block live-streaming
House GOP leaders revealed this week they plan to punish lawmakers who take photographs or live-stream events from the chamber floor, a direct response to Democrats’ 1960s-style protest over gun control that paralyzed the chamber last summer.
The proposed rules package for the new Congress says any member who uses an electronic device to take pictures or record audio or video from the floor would be fined $500 for the first violation and $2,500 for each subsequent offense. The money would be deducted from the member’s paycheck.
The rules also say lawmakers may be referred to the Committee on Ethics for preventing colleagues from getting to the microphones or passing through the well of the chamber.
“These changes will help ensure that order and decorum are preserved in the House of Representatives so lawmakers can do the people’s work,” said AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Republican Speaker Paul D. Ryan.
For months House GOP leaders have plotted a response to Democrats who upended the chamber last June with a vocal sit-in in the wake of a nightclub shooting that killed 49 people in Orlando, Florida.
Protesting lawmakers led by Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and civil rights-era icon, and Rep. John B. Larson, Connecticut Democrat, wanted GOP leadership to hold votes on bills that would expand background checks for gunbuyers and ban people on the “no fly” terror list from buying guns.
After the official House cameras were shut down, Democrats managed to broadcast their protest through the Facebook Live or Periscope applications on their smartphones.
They also raised money off the 25-hour effort that disrupted legislative business and votes, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee blasting out emails asking supporters to pitch in their financial support.
Ultimately, Democrats came away empty-handed. The speaker said the Democrats’ proposals flouted the Constitution, and that he didn’t want to reward their “publicity stunt” anyway.
Mr. Ryan said that if Democrats were serious about passing their legislation, they would have rallied majority support for a discharge petition to force a floor vote on the issue. Instead the speaker backed a more limited proposal as part of a broader package on terrorism.
The House will vote on the new rules package after it reconvenes on Jan. 3, with Republicans again holding a majority of more than 45 seats in the 435-seat chamber.
Lawmakers who participated in last summer’s protest would not be subject to the proposed fines, which only apply to future infractions.
Yet House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, blasted the protest-related provisions Tuesday, saying Republicans had their priorities all wrong.
“House Republicans continue to act as the handmaidens of the gun lobby refusing to pass sensible, bipartisan legislation to expand background checks and keep guns out of the hands of terrorists,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said.
“House Democrats will never stop speaking out against the daily tragedy of gun violence in this country,” he added.
The proposed rules package would also revive the so-called “Holman rule,” a provision that seeks to rein in spending within appropriations bills by reducing the number or salaries of federal employees. The tool, which has largely been dormant since 1983, would be reintroduced on a trial basis for one year.