Gohmert: Dems should be grateful they aren’t being punished for sit-in

Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertHillicon Valley: Facebook, Google face tough questions on white nationalism | Nielsen's exit raisers cyber worries | McConnell calls net neutrality bill 'dead on arrival' | Facebook changes terms for EU data Republicans offer 'free market alternative' to paid family leave YouTube shuts down comments on House hearing on white nationalism over hateful remarks MORE (R-Texas) said Wednesday that House Democrats howling over new rules aimed at preventing another sit-in like the one they staged last summer could have had it a lot worse.

The House adopted rules on Tuesday, the first day of the new Congress, that would impose fines of up to $2,500 on members who violate a ban on taking photos or video on the floor.

GOP leaders pushed the new enforcement mechanism for breaking previously existing rules in response to Democrats’ sit-in last June to call for action on gun control measures.

Gohmert said in a House floor speech the next day that Democrats should be grateful that the new rules aren’t retroactive. House GOP leaders had initially indicated that rule-breaking lawmakers would face some sort of punishment, but that never happened. 

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Consequently, Democrats who disrupted proceedings and live-streamed their nearly 26-hour sit-in when the C-SPAN cameras were shut off won’t be punished. They’ll only face fines or a referral to the House Ethics Committee if they try it again going forward.

“Adopting rules now, specific penalties, don’t really punish people that violated those very rules last year. And so, I’m surprised that there is any complaint 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," Gohmert said.

“They didn’t even get probation. They got nothing. They got pardoned, basically,” he said.

But it’s not too late to punish those lawmakers who violated House rules, Gohmert argued. He wondered aloud if the Office of Congressional Ethics, the independent watchdog that was nearly gutted before a public backlash, was investigating Democrats for their behavior during the sit-in.

“Perhaps if they think this is unfair, then we ought to have Ethics hearings on what happened back then. I haven’t heard of OCE, by the way, taking any action,” Gohmert said, noting that investigators could turn to footage steamed by the Democrats themselves for evidence.

Recent OCE investigations have largely focused on whether lawmakers were violating campaign finance laws and engaging in potential conflicts of interest, rather than violating House floor decorum.

Lawmakers of both parties have routinely ignored the photography ban to snap pictures of themselves on the House floor, particularly during events such as the State of the Union. Many members posted their photos on social media, making it obvious to any casual observer they were flouting the rules.

But they never faced consequences.

Multiple Democrats mockingly posted photos and video from the House floor on Tuesday in the hours preceding the afternoon vote to adopt the rules changes.

After the rules were adopted, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (N.Y.) asked on the floor, “The more money you have, the more free speech you have in this country?”

Republicans wanted their leadership to take some sort of action to deter Democrats from establishing what they saw as a dangerous precedent of a House minority usurping control from the majority party.

Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) chimed in during Gohmert’s remarks, recalling how he found the House chamber a mess after Democrats finished their sit-in.

“I had the appalling experience of walking on the floor just a few minutes after they concluded their sit-in. Honestly, the garbage that was laying on the floor. I saw food crumbs, old newspapers, magazines, couple blankets. They didn’t even pick up after themselves. They expected the staff of the building to pick it up and haul it off for them because their Occupy Wall Street moment was over with,” LaMalfa said.