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GOP-Controlled House Seeks to Quell Floor 'Disruptions' With Fines and Penalties

Republican rules designed to 'silence opposition,' one Democrat charges

 

House Democrats, led by Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, occupied the floor of the chamber to demand a vote on gun control in June. (Photo:Rep. John Yarmouth/Twitter)

Democratic lawmakers are reportedly "apoplectic" over a proposed new House rules package that would impose fines and potential ethics violations on members who "disrupt" chamber proceedings. 

The proposal, seen by Bloomberg, is seemingly designed to prevent another sit-in like the one about 40 Democrats staged this summer after the Orlando nightclub shooting

According to Bloomberg:

[M]embers could face a $500 fine through deductions to their paychecks for a first offense of using electronic photography or audio or visual recording, as well as for broadcasting from the chamber’s floor. A $2,500 fine would be leveled for the next such offense and each subsequent violation. 

The new rules also clarify which conduct is to be deemed disorderly or disruptive during floor proceedings, including blocking access by other members to microphones or what is known as "the well"—the front of the chamber. 

Such action could lead to potential referral to the Committee on Ethics and sanctions against members, according to an accompanying section-by-section analysis of the new rules package.

During the 25-hour sit-in in June, Democrats live-streamed their actions to get the protest out to the public after the GOP shut down House cameras.  

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The House will vote on the package—which will not be retroactive—when it reconvenes on January 3. 

On Monday and Tuesday, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) tweeted against the proposed changes:

And Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), through a spokesman, was similarly defiant in a statement on Tuesday. "Sadly, the first action of the new Congress will be the passage of rules changes targeting Democratic members who participated in the 25-hour sit-in following the horrific Pulse shooting in Orlando that killed 49 and wounded more than 50," said spokesman Drew Hammill. 

"House Republicans continue to act as the handmaidens of the gun lobby refusing to pass sensible, bipartisan legislation to expand background checks, and keep guns out of the hands of terrorists," Hammill said. 

An aide for Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) added: "Instead of trying to silence their opposition, Cheri thinks Washington Republicans should just allow an up or down vote on a bill to reduce gun violence by closing the gun show loophole through expanded criminal background checks."

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