Speaker of the House Paul Ryan proposed a rule change that would formally punish any House Democrat who took a picture or a video while on the floor of the governing body, a move that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called a “power grab.”
Democrats prompted the rule change when they staged a “sit-in” last summer over gun control, asserting that Republicans refused to act on the issue. The House of Representatives was out of session at the time, and the protest lasted 25 hours.
Republicans asserted that several rules were broken during the course of the protest, but the fact that House Democrats sent out email fundraising solicitations using private pictures taken in the House chambers, was especially troubling to some.
Republicans decided to empower the sergeant-at-arms to formally punish any member of Congress who takes a picture or video of themselves, with a fine of $2,500 dollars automatically deducted from their paycheck.
“While the American people worry for the financial security of their families, Republicans are opening the new Congress by turning their backs on the outside calls for help with an inside power grab in the House Rules,” Pelosi responded in a letter to constituents.
Democrats also challenge the constitutionality of the rule change, arguing that the House of Representatives has the right to formally punish members for infractions with a majority vote, but that the Constitution does not allow a single officer of the governing body to punish a member on their own.
“The Republican rules package is nothing less than an egregious attack on the sacred freedom of expression on the House floor,” Pelosi wrote. “The manner in which the Sergeant-at-Arms and House Administrative officers are directed to create and implement policy and to assess fines offends the dignity of the House, assaults freedom of speech, and may even be unconstitutional.”
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