Is Pelosi stopping Republicans from voting in the House?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

To answer the title question, Congressmen Louie Gohmert and Andrew Clyde, both Republicans, are trying to take Speaker Nancy Pelosi to court. The lawsuit they announced yesterday claims that new security rules in the House of Representatives have caused them to miss floor votes. Making matters worse, they allege that the rules are being applied unevenly, singling out Republicans while allowing Democrats to come and go as they please. They further claim that they’ve been hit with unreasonable fines, unlike their Democratic colleagues who behave in the same way. The rules in question involved the metal detectors (magnetometers, or “mags”) that House members are now required to pass through before entering the chamber. All of this chaos is the result of changes mandated by the Speaker following the January 6th riot. So, do they have a winnable case here? If all of their claims prove accurate, they just might. (Washington Times)

Two Republicans announced a lawsuit Monday challenging fines slapped on them for violating the House’s new security screening rules, saying someone has to stand up to what they see as an increasingly imperial way that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has run the chamber.

Reps. Louie Gohmert and Andrew Clyde said that if the courts don’t step in and rule Mrs. Pelosi out of line, there’s no end to the mischief a House speaker can do.

In this case, they say, Republicans have missed being able to cast their votes on the floor because they’ve been delayed by the magnetometers, or “mags,” that now guard entrances to the chamber. The effect, they say, is Mrs. Pelosi has silenced their constituents’ voice on those occasions — and it’s been aimed at Republicans.

The new rules say that all members have to go through the mags just like all visitors to the Capitol Building, a process that members were previously allowed to skip. Skipping the screening process can result in a fine of $5,000, with a fine of $10,000 being imposed for a second offense. Both Gohmert and Clyde have been slapped with these fines. The problem is that the lines are frequently long and slow-moving. Gohmert claims that this has resulted in him missing votes when he was cutting the timing of his arrival too closely.

Both congressmen are listing a number of grounds for protesting these new rules. From the constitutional side, they claim that the fines being imposed violate the 27th Amendment, which says that a lawmaker’s pay can’t be changed while Congress is in session. They further point to Article I of the Constitution which protects legislators from being arrested while traveling to perform official business.

I’m not trying to rain on their parade here, but I’m not sure if either of those objections would hold up in court. As far as the fines go, their pay rates haven’t been changed. What the amendment actually says is “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives” can take effect until after the next election has taken place. They lost money because of a rules violation, so it wasn’t really a “law” to begin with. By the logic they’re using, members of Congress couldn’t be given speeding tickets on their way to the Capitol Building. As far as being arrested goes, it doesn’t sound like either of them was technically “arrested.” They were detained and asked to go through the metal detectors. I’m pretty sure we’d have heard about it if either of them had been dragged off to jail.

Some of their other complaints may be on more solid footing, however. Each chamber has the right to make its own rules of order, but the House never voted on these new security rules. Nancy Pelosi just announced them unilaterally. That might be allowable in a temporary fashion during a state of emergency, but any permanent changes in the rules of order should face a vote.

Even more disturbing are the allegations that the rules are being enforced unequally. Both congressmen claim that they have seen Democrats – including Nancy Pelosi herself – going through the mags and setting off the detectors, but then being allowed to simply keep on going without further screening. (A courtesy not offered to them.) They claim to have witnesses who are ready to testify that they have seen the same thing and have requested security camera footage from the lobby to back up their accusations. Also, while multiple Republicans have been subjected to these fines, only one Democrat (James Clyburn) has been fined under these rules and his fine was overturned by the House Ethics committee.

If all of these allegations pan out then Nancy Pelosi has a lot to answer for. Some members may not like the new rules, but if they are properly enacted and enforced in a nonpartisan fashion, everyone would just have to learn to live with them. But if the rules are being used to selectively target members of one party and not the other, then they aren’t really rules at all. They’re partisan tools being used to discriminate. And I’m fairly sure I remember plenty of Democrats saying that discrimination is a bad thing.