House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy says he is investigating reports that some Democrats who participated in the sit-in on the House floor two weeks ago engaged in intimidating behavior toward professional staffers. McCarthy says he and House Speaker Paul Ryan plan to meet with the Sergeant at Arms about the issue. Politico reports:
“There have been a number of reports from members of certain things … about some of the Democrats and the way they treated [staff],” he said. “Some people said intimidation and even knocking things out of the hands of professional staff. [We’re] finding out if that actually took place. Is there video of this? There are some people that were around when this took place that had come and told me about this as well, they had seen it.”
Asked whether GOP leaders were considering punishment for Democratic members, McCarthy responded: “Right now it’s more of an investigation of looking at what transpired and what didn’t. Get all the facts, then decide accordingly what should be done.”
Ryan has strongly criticized the sit-in as a “fundraising stunt” which he said was a violation of House rules and a bad precedent. Ryan said last week that he would not tolerate another sit-in from Democrats, though he did not say what action he would take to prevent a re-occurrence.
The investigation may be intended as a reminder to Democrats that there are possible repercussions for their behavior. If they are thinking they got away with breaking the rules once and can surely do it again, Ryan and McCarthy are pointing out that some Democratic members may already have been given more grace than they probably deserved. Pushing their luck with a 2nd sit-in could result in Ryan pushing for ethics charges against certain members. McCarthy didn’t indicate which members he had in mind but Democrats likely already know.
Former House Majority Leader Tom Delay, in an interview with the Texas Tribune, suggested he would have been much tougher on Democrats. Delay recommended ethics charges be brought against all of the Democrats who violated House Rules while participating in the sit-in. For instance, Democrats violated rules against taking photos and video when they posted images on Twitter and live-streamed their protest. Even when they were asked to stop, Democrats refused:
The Sgt at Arms is asking us to stop taking photos and video from House floor. Republicans should turn the cameras back on. #NoBillNoBreak
— Rep. John Yarmuth (@RepJohnYarmuth) June 22, 2016
Speaker Ryan said last week that Democrats could have a vote on their gun control bill so it’s not clear why another sit-in or similar disruption is even necessary. Of course, if the real goal was to raise money and generate sympathetic media, their incentive to be disruptive remains.