Democratic senators are pushing back against the news that reporters will be barred from filming or recording audio of interviews in the Senate hallways without special permission, with many lawmakers noting that the restrictions come as the Senate considers high-profile courses of action on Russian election interference and an ObamaCare repeal bill.
Many Democratic senators tweeted about the crackdown on press access after reports of the new restrictions surfaced Tuesday.
Television reporters will now need permission from senators, the Senate Rules Committee, the Senate sergeant-at-arms or the Senate Radio and TV Gallery, depending on location, before conducting an on-camera interview with a senator anywhere in the Capitol or in the Senate office buildings, according to a Senate official familiar with the matter.
A Senate Democratic aide said the decision to substantially curtail the access of television reporters was made unilaterally by Senate Rules Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).
The new rules come as Senate Republicans rush to finish an ObamaCare repeal bill, which Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats' do-or-die moment Biden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan Progressives push for fossil subsidy repeal in spending bill MORE (D-N.Y.) brought up in a tweet criticizing the rules.
Press access should never be restricted unfairly, particularly not when one party is trying to sneak a major bill through Congress.— Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats' do-or-die moment Biden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan Progressives push for fossil subsidy repeal in spending bill MORE (@SenSchumer) June 13, 2017
Some Democratic senators said lawmakers shouldn't need to avoid the press, emphasizing the importance of free press.
Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Officials want action on cyberattacks Senate panel advances antitrust bill that eyes Google, Facebook This week: Democrats face mounting headaches MORE (D-Minn.) called for reporting at the Capitol to be allowed to "proceed as usual."
Other Democratic senators referenced the GOP's healthcare proposal, saying the GOP is trying to "hide" from its plan.
As ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee I call on the majority to allow reporting in the Capitol to proceed as usual.— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) June 13, 2017
Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — Senate Finance chair backs budget action on fossil fuel subsidies Top Democrat says he'll push to address fossil fuel tax breaks in spending bill Democrats revive filibuster fight over voting rights bill MORE (@SenJeffMerkley) June 13, 2017
Senators shouldn't need to hide. We serve the people & they have a right to know what we are doing. https://t.co/HqGadvoQQu— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) June 13, 2017
Huh? Maybe worried you will catch the group of guys writing health care bill in back room somewhere. https://t.co/tp5u2dFldh— Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillRepublicans may regret restricting reproductive rights Sunday shows preview: States deal with fallout of Ida; Texas abortion law takes effect Giuliani to stump for Greitens in Missouri MORE (@clairecmc) June 13, 2017
This is Senate GOP trying to hide from their terrible health care bill. America - demand answers https://t.co/gh9NsTSxoI— Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs Panic begins to creep into Democratic talks on Biden agenda Democrats surprised, caught off guard by 'framework' deal MORE (@RonWyden) June 13, 2017
Maybe not the right moment to lower the secrecy veil on Congress. To whoever is trying to protect Senators - we can fend for ourselves. https://t.co/YSbTuaIZKV— Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyCongress facing shutdown, debt crisis with no plan B Senators slow Biden with holds at Pentagon, State Tell our troops: 'Your sacrifice wasn't in vain' MORE (@ChrisMurphyCT) June 13, 2017
To be clear, this rule change on reporter access was a unilateral decision by the Republican members of the Senate Rules Committee. https://t.co/pVYM9g3u2f— Senator Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyDemocrats surprised, caught off guard by 'framework' deal Bipartisan senators to hold hearing on 'toxic conservatorships' amid Britney Spears controversy Overnight Health Care — Presented by Indivior —Pfizer: COVID-19 vaccine safe for young kids MORE (@SenBobCasey) June 13, 2017
The new restrictions break years of precedent, which previously set that “videotaping and audio recording are permitted in the public areas of the House and Senate office buildings,” according to the Radio and TV Gallery website.
The new rules also provoked pushback from some GOP senators, with Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.) calling them a "bad idea."
This is a bad idea. https://t.co/8qmlBSuqCG— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) June 13, 2017