House Democrats are apoplectic over the GOP’s proposed rules changes to prevent them from staging another sit-in on the floor to disrupt proceedings.
The most controversial proposal in the rules package for the new Congress would fine lawmakers who take photos or video on the House floor, which was already prohibited.
Members virtually never faced actual punishment for taking pictures on the House floor in the past, such as during the State of the Union, even though it violated the chamber’s rules.
But if lawmakers try to snap photos or stream video starting in 2017, they would face a $500 fine for the first offense and $2,500 for any subsequent offenses. The fines would be deducted from the members’ annual salaries.
The proposal would not be retroactive, meaning Democrats who participated in the House floor sit-in this past June to call for action on gun control legislation won’t be punished. But lawmakers would face consequences if they try to do something similar in the future.
Democrats commandeered the House floor for nearly 26 hours in June in the aftermath of the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., that killed 49 people and wounded more than 50 others. House GOP leaders found themselves helpless to force Democrats off the floor and return to normal proceedings. Republicans ultimately forged ahead with previously scheduled votes as the sit-in went on and adjourned early for the week.
A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Democrats won’t back down from calling for action on gun control measures in response to mass shootings like the one at Pulse.
“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 in a statement on Tuesday.
“Speaker Ryan can continue to shamefully ignore the calls for action from the American people but House Democrats will never stop speaking out against the daily tragedy of gun violence in this country,” Hammill said.
And on Monday, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) defiantly said the proposed fines wouldn’t deter Democrats from advocating for gun safety measures.
Swalwell was among the Democratic lawmakers who filmed the sit-in proceedings after GOP leaders called the chamber into recess, which forced the C-SPAN cameras to be turned off.
The fines aren’t the only proposal in the rules package meant to deter the House minority from taking over the floor.
Another provision would explicitly prohibit members and staffers from “intentionally obstructing or impeding the passage of other in the chamber” and “[using] an exhibit to impede, disrupt, or disturb the proceedings of the House.”
Members who violate those rules would be referred to the House Ethics Committee.
The House will vote on the rules package on the first day of the new Congress, on Jan. 3. It’s expected to pass despite what’s likely to be uniform Democratic opposition.