During a meeting on Monday evening, House GOP members softened their stance on taking videos on the floor of the House. Previously, they were planning on an outright ban. Now, after getting lots of heat over the move being unconstitutional, they’re trying to strike a softer position.
Republicans, with the approval of Paul Ryan, doctored their proposal so that now, lawmakers who are fined $2,500 for breaking the no-video statute can appeal to the House Ethics Committee. The move is a direct reflection of the “sit-in” staged by House Democrats last summer on behalf of gun control. The sit-in was broadcast via cell phone.
According to AshLee Strong, Paul Ryan’s spokesperson, “The speaker told the conference he supported the amendment, which will allow the enforcement mechanism to remain to ensure the House can do its work, while also adding a due process mechanism that would allow members to appeal the decision after being fined.”
In December, top Republicans announced a plan to levy huge deductions from House members’ paychecks in punishment for livestreaming or taking pics on the House floor.
At the time of the sit-in, the Republicans shut down the House, barring C-SPAN from broadcasting. But Democrats violated House rules and broadcast the proceedings on their phones.
Republicans seethed, and now have their chance at payback. Legal commentators are worried about their plan, tough. They feel that it would be unconstitutional to circumvent the standard procedure of only sanctioning members through a general vote. The fines would also bypass the ethics panel. They also worry that due process would be violated.
In response, Republicans offered the chance of appeal. Representative Mark Meadows submitted an amendment, which has garnered favor with Paul Ryan.
Concerns over House Republicans’ treatment of this issue is one of many pressing concerns that are troubling civil rights advocates and the left in general, going into the Trump presidency. Republicans will have control of all three branches of government, leading many people to worry very loudly that we may see significant further abuses of power.
Cracking down on cell phone videos does seem like a schoolyard bully tactic. And incredibly petty. As many Americans bemoan the deepening of political trenches, nobody in either party appears to be doing much to bridge the gap. And partisanship just gets more and more kindergarten as time goes on.
We should protect legislators’ ability to record video of Congress in action. Even if nobody will ever watch it.