House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi railed against the rules package passed Tuesday for including language that would fine members for streaming video or taking pictures inside the chamber.
Under the new rules, violators will face a fine up to $500 for their first offense, which then climbs up to $2,500 after further offenses. They were put in place following Democratic lawmakers breaking a number of rules during their unprecedented gun-control sit-in, which lasted over 24 hours, in June.
Pelosi said penalizing members for their actions by docking their pay is unconstitutional, arguing they should have the right to freely voice their opinions.
“I think that the Constitution of the United States, and the freedom of speech, takes precedent over everything else,” she told reporters at her weekly press conference Friday. “For the Republicans to say if you express your point of view on the floor of the House the sergeant at arms can make a determination that you have violated a rule of the House and deduct from your pay a fine, t’his is completely outrageous — completely outrageous.”
During the protest, Democratic members live streamed speeches on social media, railing against Republicans for opting not to call a vote on a gun-control measure that failed in the Senate and in committee.
“It’s all about freedom of expression,” she continued. “And making rules of the House, we don’t make rules that violate the constitution. It all comes back to the constitution of the United States.”
Republican Rep. Louis Gohmert of Texas suggested Democrats should stop complaining since the penalty isn’t retroactive.
“I’m surprised that there is any complaints at all since basically it means people who violated the rule with such abandon would complain about inserting a specific penalty now, meaning they got a free one,” he said during a floor speech Thursday. “They didn’t even get probation –they got nothing. They got pardoned, basically.”
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