House Ethics panel to drop $5K metal detector fines against Clyburn, Rogers
The House Ethics Committee announced Thursday that its members have agreed to drop $5,000 fines issued to both Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) for allegedly failing to complete security screenings before entering the House chamber.
Fines for evading the metal detectors stationed outside the House chamber after Jan. 6 are upheld unless a majority of the evenly split Ethics Committee agrees to an appeal. The move to drop the fines indicates that the decisions regarding Clyburn and Rogers were bipartisan.
Both Clyburn and Rogers filed appeals to the Ethics Committee after the House sergeant-at-arms issued the fines.
Thursday’s move marks the first time that fines issued to House members for evading security screenings have been successfully appealed.
The Capitol Police report filed with the fine issued to Clyburn last month alleged that the third-ranking House Democrat went into the chamber after returning from the restroom during a vote “without being screened by the officer” and “deliberately avoided being screened.”
Clyburn denied the allegation and wrote in his appeal that “at no time did I refuse any officer’s request to submit to screening.”
The Capitol Police report against Rogers, meanwhile, stated that the Kentucky Republican set off the metal detector outside a door to the House chamber but continued walking. A Capitol Police officer told Rogers he needed to be wanded with a manual metal detector. But Rogers replied, “Maybe later, I have to vote.”
Rogers then returned to the security checkpoint and asked what he needed to do. The officer clarified that security screenings needed to be completed before entering the House chamber, not after.
Rogers wrote in his appeal that “I dispute the facts as presented and request the opportunity to appear before the Committee to explain the facts.”
Three other House members have also been issued metal detector fines: Republican Reps. Louie Gohmert (Texas), Andrew Clyde (Ga.) and Virginia Foxx (N.C.).
But unlike with Clyburn and Rogers, the House Ethics Committee did not uphold the appeals filed by Gohmert and Clyde.
Gohmert’s situation was similar to Clyburn’s — he was accused of avoiding a security screening after returning to the House chamber from the restroom.
Gohmert argued in his appeal that he had complied with a screening upon first entering the House chamber, but was unaware he needed to undergo another one after his brief restroom break. But Gohmert acknowledged that a Capitol Police officer had asked him to undergo another screening before returning to the chamber.
“There are not even any tanks on toilets so someone could hide a gun in them like in The Godfather movie,” Gohmert wrote.
“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 wanded 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 continued.
Clyde did not deny in his appeal that he had evaded the metal detectors, but instead argued that the fines were unconstitutional. After the Ethics panel upheld his fines for two offenses — $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for the second — Clyde said he would challenge them in federal court.
Foxx was issued a fine late last week for allegedly continuing into the House chamber despite setting off the metal detector, but, similar to Rogers, returned to the checkpoint to retrieve her bag. Foxx told a Politico reporter who witnessed the incident that she was running late for the vote.
House Democrats voted in February to make noncompliance with the security screenings punishable by fine after several Republicans defied Capitol Police officers and pushed their way into the chamber anyway.
Members of Congress are generally exempt from the metal detector screenings required of all visitors and staff to the Capitol complex. Aside from the metal detectors outside the House chamber, lawmakers can still skip the screenings to enter the main Capitol building or office buildings in the complex.
Updated 4:34 p.m.