Ethics upholds Gohmert’s $5,000 metal detector fine
The House Ethics Committee said Tuesday that it is upholding the $5,000 fine levied against Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) for bypassing a security screening to enter the House chamber.
Gohmert had appealed the fine issued by the House sergeant-at-arms on Feb. 5, days after House Democrats voted to enact the punitive measure to enforce compliance with the metal detector screenings established following the Jan. 6 insurrection.
But a majority of the House Ethics Committee declined to agree to the appeal, meaning Gohmert is now obligated to pay the $5,000 fine. The panel is evenly split with five Democrats and five Republicans.
Gohmert stated in his appeal that he had fully complied with the security screening upon first entering the House chamber on Feb. 4. He then left the House floor briefly to use the restroom located outside the Speaker’s Lobby and was unaware that he had to undergo another screening upon reentering the chamber.
“During the weeks that the metal detectors have been in place, I have entered the House floor previously after being screened through the metal detector, then later gone to the Members’ restroom immediately beside the Speaker’s Lobby many times. I have never before been wanded on coming from the restroom to the House floor,” Gohmert wrote.
Gohmert noted that there wasn’t a metal detector between the restrooms off the Speaker’s Lobby and the doors leading into the House chamber. Security officials have since installed full-size metal detectors inside the Speaker’s Lobby in recent weeks.
“There was no metal detector between the floor at the short distance to the restroom. It made good sense that there did not need to be. There are not even any tanks on toilets so someone could hide a gun in them like in The Godfather movie,” Gohmert wrote.
But Gohmert acknowledged that he was asked by a Capitol Police officer to undergo a screening before returning to the House floor from the restroom.
“As has happened on previous days, my turn to be recognized and engage in speech and debate on the House floor was nearing, so I headed for the restroom right before I was to speak. That is something I often do before speaking publicly. As I did, I mentioned to the officers on the day in question that I was going to the restroom right by the Speaker’s Lobby, and they watched me go in and within probably less than three minutes, watched me return,” Gohmert recounted.
“The officer said I needed to be wanded but since I had already been through the metal detector thoroughly and having never before been required to be handed after already having entered the floor properly, I returned to the House floor to engage in my turn to debate the bill under consideration,” he wrote.
Under the rules House Democrats adopted in February, lawmakers will be fined $5,000 for the first offense if they don’t comply with the security screenings and $10,000 for the second. The fines are deducted directly out of lawmakers’ paychecks. Lawmakers obligated to pay the fines cannot use campaign or congressional office funds.
Lawmakers can appeal the fines to the House Ethics Committee, which has 30 days to decide whether to uphold or reject the appeal.
Democrats instituted the fines after several House Republicans refused to comply with the newly installed metal detectors, with some continuing to walk into the chamber despite setting them off or even pushing officers out of the way.
The metal detectors were meant to enforce long-standing rules prohibiting anyone from carrying guns into the House chamber. Members of Congress are granted narrow exemptions to keep guns in their offices or transport them unloaded and securely wrapped.
Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) nearly brought a concealed gun onto the House floor in January, but it was detected during a security screening.
Gohmert argued that the $5,000 fine is overly punitive for a member of Congress who isn’t independently wealthy.
“Because I have sacrificed to become a public servant and am not a millionaire as is the Speaker who arbitrarily set the amount of the fine, this kind of massive fine becomes an arbitrary bar to eliminate the non-wealthy from Congress,” Gohmert wrote, referring to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “Obviously five thousand dollars to a millionaire is a mere pittance compared to the blow to someone who is of vastly lesser means.”
At least one other House member has been issued a fine. Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) was also fined around the same time as Gohmert in early February.