GOP lawmaker fined $5,000 for failing to complete House security screening
Rep. Jim Baird (R-Ind.) has been fined $5,000 for allegedly failing to complete a security screening prior to entering the House chamber last week, the House Ethics Committee disclosed on Monday.
According to a Capitol Police memo documenting the Nov. 17 incident, Baird “walked around the magnetometer” at a security checkpoint outside the House chamber. A Capitol Police officer stated that he tried to get Baird’s attention by placing his hand on his elbow and told him he needed to go through a security screening before going on the House floor.
Baird allegedly “made eye contact” with the officer, but “proceeded to enter the House floor.”
Baird can appeal the fine within 30 days after receiving the notification from the House sergeant-at-arms. A spokesperson for Baird said Tuesday that he will appeal the fine and “believes this is a misunderstanding that he looks forward to resolving with the Ethics Committee.”
Baird, a Vietnam War veteran, lost his left arm while serving in combat and has a prosthetic limb. Capitol Police officers typically use handheld metal detector wands to accommodate anyone who sets off one of the full-sized magnetometers.
House Democrats enacted the fines — which start at $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for subsequent offenses — to enforce compliance with the screenings established after the violent Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Several GOP lawmakers initially defied Capitol Police officers’ instructions and refused to go through the magnetometers prior to entering the House chamber.
While all staff and visitors must go through magnetometers before entering the Capitol and surrounding office buildings, members of Congress have traditionally been exempt from the screenings. And aside from the magnetometers currently outside the House chamber, lawmakers are otherwise still exempt from security screenings elsewhere in the Capitol complex.
But Democrats began requiring all lawmakers to undergo the screenings after Jan. 6 to enforce longstanding rules prohibiting anyone from bringing weapons into the House chamber.
Members of Congress are allowed to store guns in their offices or transport them — unloaded and securely wrapped — elsewhere on the Capitol grounds. Congressional staff and visitors, meanwhile, are prohibited from carrying guns in the complex at all times.
Democrats’ fears were confirmed when Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) nearly brought a concealed gun into the House chamber in late January, which was only caught because he underwent a metal detector screening.
Two Republicans who were issued fines earlier this year for failing to comply with the security screenings, Reps. Andrew Clyde (Ga.) and Louie Gohmert (Texas), filed a lawsuit in June to challenge the constitutionality of the penalties.
Other lawmakers who have been fined over the security screenings include House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Reps. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.), Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) and Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas). But many of those lawmakers managed to successfully appeal the fines.
The House Ethics Committee ultimately agreed to dismiss the fines against Clyburn, Rogers, Huizenga, Crenshaw and Foxx. But it has upheld the ones against Gohmert, Clyde and Smucker.
Democrats have also established fines to enforce rules requiring lawmakers to wear masks on the House floor during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those fines start at $500 for the first offense and $2,500 for subsequent offenses.
Several House GOP lawmakers have been fined for not wearing a mask, including a group that staged a protest during the brief period over the summer when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initially said that people vaccinated against COVID-19 could forgo facial coverings.
But two Republicans have been racking up hefty fines for repeatedly defying the mask requirement.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) told The Hill last week that she has reached at least $63,000 in mask fines. That amount is reflective of fines issued through early November.
Greene, who has been briefly suspended from Twitter for promoting misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, also said that she is not vaccinated against the virus.
Clyde, meanwhile, has accumulated at least $15,500 in mask fines.
–Updated on Nov. 23 at 9:17 a.m.
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