Months after House Democrats, led by civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), staged a sit-in on the floor of the U.S. House to push for gun control legislation, congressional Republicans are circulating rules to ban that kind of demonstration from ever happening again.
During the June protest, which lasted for more than 24 hours, the Republicans responded by shutting off C-SPAN’s congressional cameras—a move that blocked traditional media coverage of the protest and forced the Democrats to livestream their sit-in on Periscope and Facebook Live instead. Now, after promising to derail any future attempts by the Democrats to recreate their much-watched sit-in, Congressional Republicans are circulating a new draft of the House rules that is widely viewed as a direct reaction to the lawmakers’ protest.
A measure nestled in a draft of new rules would mandate that representatives’ pay be docked $500 for their first offense of taking photos, video, or broadcasting from the House floor, with the fine going up to $2,500 for any subsequent offenses. Violations could also result in a referral to the House’s Ethics Committee, according to Roll Call.
A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) defended the move in a statement released Monday, saying, “These changes will help ensure that order and decorum are preserved in the House of Representatives so lawmakers can do the people’s work.”
Variety notes that taking pictures and video from the House floor is already considered a breach of House decorum, but the proposed rules would give the current policy teeth.
House Democrats are crying foul over the proposed rules.
“Sadly, the first action of the new Congress will be the passage of rules changes targeting Democratic members who participated in the 25-hour sit-in following the horrific Pulse shooting in Orlando that killed 49 and wounded more than 50,” a spokesman for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in response to the measure. “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.”
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), who led efforts to loosen restrictions both on personal broadcasting from the House floor and the rules controlling C-SPAN camera access, blasted the new proposal on Twitter, telling his colleagues across the aisle to “Bring.It.On.”
In a letter Swalwell sent to Ryan this summer asking for revisions to the rules on filming from the House floor, he wrote that “allowing audio/video recordings and still photographs on the House Floor when the House is in or out of session would be a tremendous way of connecting more people, particularly millennials who so often use this technology, with our democracy.”
Roll Call reported that House members are expected to take up debate over new rules on January 3.