With the unpopular health care repeal bill working its way through Congress, and the deepening Russia scandal looming, the House Speaker provided a clear reminder that the GOP doesn't want the public to know what they're doing.
One year ago, House Democrats engaged in a powerful act of protest right on the House floor.
Led by Rep. John Lewis, lawmakers held a 25+ hour sit-in to call out Congressional inaction on gun safety legislation. As Lewis noted at the time, “Sometimes you have to violate a rule of law to uphold a greater law, a moral law.”
The protest went viral, because even when C-SPAN’s camera were temporarily turned off, some Democrats took matters into their own hands — literally. They used their own cellphones to live-stream the sit-in over Twitter, and to post photos and video clips all over social media.
Of course, that didn’t sit well with Republicans. Months later, House Speaker Paul Ryan proposed new penalties, including fines and ethics violations, for any similar acts going forward.
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.
AshLee Strong, Ryan’s spokesperson, said at the time that the penalties would “help ensure that order and decorum are preserved” in the House.
Now, with unpopular legislation and growing scandals looming ahead, Ryan has reiterated the possibility of punishment should members of the House attempt similar tactics:
Members must refrain from engaging in still photography, or audio or video recording, or streaming in the chamber. Members violating this rule may be subject to fines.
And the deepening scandal and broadening investigation into Donald Trump’s team and Russia is another unavoidable issue for which Republicans are still attempting to duck accountability and the need to take a firm stand.
So it may be unsurprising that Ryan would issue this pointed reminder that letting the American people in on what happens in the chambers of government could be met with punishment.
But that admonishment didn’t work back in December, and it surely won’t work any better now.