House adopts fines for lawmakers who don’t comply with metal detectors
The House on Tuesday adopted new rules that will enact hefty fines against lawmakers who refuse to comply with the security screenings now required for entry into the chamber in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Fines of $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for the second are now in effect.
The metal detectors outside the House chamber were installed days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a violent mob of former President Trump’s supporters who attempted to stop Congress from certifying President Biden’s election victory.
But several House Republicans defiantly pushed past Capitol Police officers and sergeant-at-arms staff into the House chamber without going through the metal detectors.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) subsequently announced that fines would be levied on lawmakers — to be deducted from their salaries — to enforce compliance.
“It is beyond comprehension why any member would refuse to adhere to these simple, commonsense steps to keep this body safe. It is sad that we have been forced to move forward with a rule change imposing fines on those who refuse to abide by these protections, but the People’s House must and will be safe, so that we can honor our responsibility to do the People’s work,” Pelosi said in a statement on Tuesday.
The fines were tucked into a measure adopted along party lines that establishes floor debate parameters for a budget resolution, which is expected to pave the way for Democrats to pass a coronavirus relief package without needing support from Republicans.
Under the new rules, any notification from the sergeant-at-arms of a fine against a lawmaker will be made public by the House Ethics Committee.
Members will have the right to appeal any fines within 30 calendar days or five legislative days, whichever is later. The House Ethics Committee will then have the same time frame to consider the appeal.
Lawmakers will not be able to use campaign funds or congressional office budget funds to pay the fines.
The metal detectors were installed after multiple GOP lawmakers, particularly Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), both invoked inflammatory rhetoric ahead of Jan. 6 promoting Trump’s false claims of election fraud and openly discussed carrying guns on Capitol Hill.
And last week, CNN found that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) appeared to endorse executing prominent Democratic politicians, including Pelosi.
“We have people in this chamber who have posted disturbing rhetoric against members of this body. These words and actions raise serious safety concerns,” said House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.).
Democrats’ fears of GOP lawmakers carrying guns were confirmed last month when Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) nearly entered the House chamber with a concealed gun that was only caught by a metal detector.
Harris’s office said at the time that he and his family have faced security threats recently and indicated that the Maryland Republican carries a gun for self-defense.
But the Harris incident further exacerbated tensions and even led some Democrats to openly express concern about the potential for violence on the floor.
Members of Congress have long been partially exempt from rules in place that ban people from carrying guns anywhere in the Capitol complex. Lawmakers can store guns in their offices or transport them — unloaded and securely wrapped — elsewhere on the Capitol grounds.
But they are prohibited from carrying guns into the House and Senate chambers or adjacent areas.
Lawmakers are also granted the privilege of bypassing security, aside from the metal detectors now outside the House chamber. All staff and visitors must go through metal detectors to enter the Capitol complex.
Two House Democrats — California Reps. Jared Huffman and Jackie Speier — reintroduced legislation last week that would end the lawmaker gun exemption.
The new fines for failing to comply with the metal detectors aren’t the only punitive measure that House Democrats have enacted in recent weeks to enforce compliance with rules meant to ensure safety.
The House last month enacted fines against any lawmakers who don’t comply with rules in place since July requiring masks in the chamber during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawmakers who don’t wear masks are subject to a $500 fine on the first offense and $2,500 on the second.
Democrats began imposing the fines after several House Republicans were not wearing masks while in the secure space allotted for lawmakers during the Jan. 6 attack. At least three House Democrats later tested positive for COVID-19 after sheltering in place in the room.
Fines to enforce House rules are not unprecedented. In 2017, House Republicans enacted fines to punish lawmakers who broke rules banning photography on the floor in the wake of Democrats’ sit-in to push for gun control legislation.