Having bad ideas for government policy isn’t strictly the province of the Democrats. The GOP appears poised to prove that they can play in that arena with the best of them as they introduce a new proposal designed to regulate the conduct of their members on the House floor. As Fox News reports this week, a new rules change under consideration would impose fines on members who break an existing rule about the use of personal cameras and cell phones. Under these rules, members would be face significant fines for recording video and pictures of events in the lower chamber and putting them out on the web.
House members could be fined and referred to the Ethics Committee if they break rules governing electronic video and pictures in the House chamber under a new rule proposed by House Republicans more than six months after the Democrats’ guerrilla sit-in over gun control.
Fox News has obtained a document spelling out the proposed penalties. House Republicans are proposing sanctioning members with a $500 fine for the first offense and $2,500 for additional offenses.
“Any subsequent offense will be assessed at the higher amount, regardless of whether it is connected to any other offense by time or proximity,” part of the proposal reads.
As the report goes on to explain, this action is being taken in response to the preposterous “sit-in” which the Democrats staged during the summer in an effort to force a vote on various gun control measures. There are in-house cameras which operate at all times while the chamber is in session, but they are shut off once the proceedings are ended. The Democrats wanted their sit-in broadcast, so they filmed it themselves on their cell phones and published the footage on social media.
This rule is being described as a measure to “ensure that order and decorum are preserved in the House of Representatives” (according to Paul Ryan) but that’s a meaningless phrase in this context. The reason is that we’re talking about “the people’s house” here. The taxpayers fund the existence of the building and the salaries of everyone doing business there. Anything that happens inside that chamber (unless it’s a discussion of sensitive, national security information) is our business. Banning the recording of events there smacks of secrecy and flies in the face of the idea of transparency.
A better solution would be to change the policy regarding the in-house cameras. There is no need to shut them off the moment the gavel falls. If there are still members in the chamber – no matter what they are doing – the cameras should continue running. Heck… you can leave them running 24/7 even when the chamber is dark and empty. It’s not like it’s going to significantly drive up costs. Provisions could obviously be put in place to shut them off if there’s ever a need to discuss sensitive security information, but those sorts of meetings generally take place behind closed doors elsewhere anyway.
There is a second part of the new rules which is clearly worth putting in place, however. It states that lawmakers cannot block the well of the House, which is precisely what happened during the aforementioned sit-in. That’s actually a disruption to the people’s business, so if you want to fine them a few thousand dollars for that, no problem. But banning the broadcast of pictures and video is simply bad policy and gives the voters less reason to trust you than they already have.