Senate Republicans sparked immediate outrage from members of the media, civil libertarians, and lawmakers on Tuesday by announcing what are being called "strict new rules" barring reporters from interviewing senators in the hallways of the Capitol.
This news comes shortly after it was revealed on Monday that the GOP will keep its Trumpcare deliberations in the dark for as long as possible before the bill goes to a vote.
"Television reporters will now need permission from senators, the Senate Rules Committee, the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms or the Senate Radio and TV Gallery, depending on location, before conducting an on-camera interview with a senator anywhere in the Capitol or in the Senate office buildings, according to a Senate official familiar with the matter," The Hill summarized.
Mike Mastrian announced the new rules to reporters early Tuesday, Politico noted, and backlash was quick to follow.
In a statement, ACLU Political Director Faiz Shakir said the rules violate "the core values of our democracy."
"Closing the shutters now, while Congress is secretly considering a bill that would cause over 20 million people to lose health insurance, is utterly unreasonable and flies in the face of the First Amendment," he concluded.
Reporters responded to the "crackdown" with a mixture of incredulity and anger.
Senate Rules Committee and @SenateSAA trying to SHUT DOWN press access in halls. No more staking out hearings without permission. Not OK.— Manu Raju (@mkraju) June 13, 2017
NBC's coverage teams & other TV outlets were waiting to get reactions from senators at several hearings when we were told to evacuate halls https://t.co/69dR5ouUk7— Marianna Sotomayor (@MariannaNBCNews) June 13, 2017
WHAT HAPPENED: Reporters were in hallways this morning per usual. Gallery staff were dispatched to issue verbal directive: Stop filming— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) June 13, 2017
WHAT HAPPENED CONTD: Gallery staff told us the decision was from the Senate Rules Committee and to call them for future interview permission— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) June 13, 2017
Democratic lawmakers weighed in, as well.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) connected the reported rules to the GOP's healthcare secrecy, tweeting, "Huh? Maybe worried you will catch the group of guys writing health care bill in back room somewhere."
Maybe not the right moment to lower the secrecy veil on Congress. To whoever is trying to protect Senators - we can fend for ourselves. https://t.co/YSbTuaIZKV— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) June 13, 2017
Press access should never be restricted unfairly, particularly not when one party is trying to sneak a major bill through Congress.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) June 13, 2017
Senate GOP is keeping their ACA repeal bill a secret.— Team Pelosi (@TeamPelosi) June 13, 2017
Now they're cutting press access?! Disturbing & undemocratic. https://t.co/FzwSb85Abk
This is Senate GOP trying to hide from their terrible health care bill. America - demand answers https://t.co/gh9NsTSxoI— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) June 13, 2017