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GOP approves new fines for livestreaming protests on House floor

  • Members have long been banned from taking pictures on the House floor, although that rule is frequently broken during ceremonial events.
  • GOP approves new fines for livestreaming protests on House floor
  • The OCE proposal, which would have effectively dismantled the independent watchdog, was set to be included in the broader rules package after Republicans approved the change in a closed-door meeting Monday.
  • Several Democrats then whipped out their phones, snapping pictures and holding up copies of the constitution.
  • Lawmakers approved the new rules along party lines after Republicans scrapped controversial plans to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics, another component of the rules package, earlier in the day.

Several Democrats then whipped out their phones, snapping pictures and holding up copies of the constitution.

@ProPublica: Republicans just approved new rules fining members who use their phones to broadcast protests from the House floor

Republicans barreled ahead with a plan to fine members who use their phones to broadcast future floor protests, approving rules for the new Congress Tuesday that codify the penalties despite last-minute objections from Democrats.

Before the vote Democrats including Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), a leader of the daylong gun-control sit-in over the summer, blasted the proposal as “unprecedented and unconstitutional.”

Several Democrats then whipped out their phones, snapping pictures and holding up copies of the constitution. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (N.Y.) took a selfie. A few members also briefly taped over their mouths in protest.

Under the new rules, lawmakers can be fined up to $2,500 for using their phones to take pictures or shoot videos on the House floor but, in a change Republicans added Monday night, they have up to 30 days to appeal the punishment.

“I’m not afraid. I’ve been fined before. Many of us have been fined before,” Lewis, an architect of the summer sit-in, said in a fiery floor speech before the vote. “We cannot and will not be silenced.”

Lawmakers approved the new rules along party lines after Republicans scrapped controversial plans to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics, another component of the rules package, earlier in the day.

The OCE proposal, which would have effectively dismantled the independent watchdog, was set to be included in the broader rules package after Republicans approved the change in a closed-door meeting Monday. But GOP leaders called an emergency meeting Tuesday morning after outcry over the move — including from President-elect Donald Trump — and Republicans quickly approved a resolution keeping the current OCE structure in place.

The rules package also paves the way for Republicans to roll back Obamacare by exempting any repeal or replacement measures from congressional limits on how much legislation can increase direct spending. That means that the House can vote to repeal the health law even if it adds significantly to the deficit.

Democrats have slammed the plan to fine House members for taking pictures or livestreaming on the House floor— a direct response to their summer gun control protest — since the idea was first unveiled last week.

Members have long been banned from taking pictures on the House floor, although that rule is frequently broken during ceremonial events. Still, GOP leaders maintain adding a punishment mechanism — up to $2,500 in fines — is necessary to deter future sit-ins or other disruptive behavior.

Democrats had vowed to fight the rules change— Larson and Lewis even likened the fines to “Putin’s Russia” in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan last week.

Republicans did agree to tweak the proposal in a closed-door meeting Monday after experts questioned the constitutionality of the GOP plan. In the future, members who are punished for live-streaming or shooting pictures in the chamber can appeal the fines to the House Ethics Committee.

GOP approves new fines for livestreaming protests on House floor