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House Ethics panel dismisses security screening fine issued to GOP lawmaker

Greg Nash

The House Ethics Committee disclosed Monday that it has dismissed a $5,000 security screening fine issued to Rep. Jim Baird (R-Ind.), who wears a prosthetic arm due to injuries sustained during the Vietnam War, which he had said likely caused a misunderstanding.

In an appeal filed to the House Ethics Committee, Baird maintained that he has always complied with the security screenings and said that the Capitol Police officer who alleged he did not properly go through a metal detector was likely unaware of his military service-related injuries that requires some unique considerations.

Capitol Police officers typically use handheld metal detector wands to accommodate people who set off the full-sized magnetometers, which Baird said is usually the case for him each time he has undergone the House chamber security screenings.

“Since the House adopted new rules on January 21, 2021, regarding screening for members entering the House chamber, I have complied with these rules every time, despite the alarm on the magnetometer serving as a constant reminder of the injuries and the multitude of shrapnel I received from the actions of a hostile enemy during combat in Vietnam while defending our nation,” Baird wrote.

According to a Capitol Police memo documenting the incident, an officer stated that he tried to get Baird’s attention by placing his hand on his elbow and telling him he needed to go through a security screening. 

Baird said that he wouldn’t have felt the officer’s touch if it was on his prosthetic arm. Baird also said that he has difficulty hearing out of his left ear due to the blast from the rocket-propelled grenade that caused his arm injury.
“If I had heard an officer attempting to stop me, or if I had felt an officer physically touching me, I would have stopped and consulted with the officer,” Baird wrote. “Given the circumstances of this situation, I believe that a misunderstanding has taken place, and as a result, I do not believe it is fair to place this report in the Congressional Record or to impose a fine upon me.”

The House Ethics Committee has ultimately dismissed most of the security screening fines issued to lawmakers this year. The fines, which House Democrats enacted to enforce the security screenings established after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, start at $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for subsequent offenses.

Six lawmakers have successfully appealed fines issued against them in addition to Baird: Reps. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.).

The panel has only upheld the security screening fines against three Republicans: Reps. Louie Gohmert (Texas), Andrew Clyde (Ga.) and Lloyd Smucker (Pa.).

Gohmert and Clyde filed a lawsuit over the summer to challenge the constitutionality of the fines.

Before Democrats enacted the fines, several GOP lawmakers refused to go through the metal detectors and ignored Capitol Police officers trying to enforce the security screenings. Aside from the magnetometers stationed outside the House chamber since after Jan. 6, members of Congress are still exempt from security screenings in the rest of the Capitol complex.

All staff and visitors, meanwhile, are required to go through security screenings whenever they enter the Capitol complex.

The screenings are meant to enforce rules that prohibit anyone from bringing weapons into the House chamber. Staff and visitors are prohibited from having guns anywhere in the Capitol complex, but members of Congress are allowed to store guns in their offices.

Democrats also established fines in January to enforce the House chamber mask requirement during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those fines start at $500 for the first offense and $2,500 for subsequent offenses.

Two far-right Georgia Republicans, Clyde and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, have routinely ignored the mask requirement and accrued tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

Clyde has reached at least $33,000 in fines, while Greene is up to at least $63,000.

Tags Dan Crenshaw Hal Rogers Jim Baird Lloyd Smucker Louie Gohmert Marjorie Taylor Greene Virginia Foxx

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