The House of Representatives has officially created a new rule that will fine any member for failing to complete security screening prior to entering the House floor.
With the passing of this rule Tuesday evening, members who fail to comply with security screenings will be fined $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for a second offense. These fines would be deducted directly from members’ salaries by the chief administrative officer.
When metal detectors were installed outside of the House floor January 12 for all members and staffers to walk through, many lawmakers aired their frustrations. Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who filmed a campaign advertisement vowing to carry her handgun around Capitol Hill prior to arriving in Washington, was also involved in a standoff with Capitol Police while trying to get on the floor when the metal detectors were newly installed. Republican Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland tried to take a concealed firearm on the House floor.
On Tuesday evening, lawmakers appeared compliant with the new security measures and went through the metal detectors before entering the House floor. The vote was 216-210 in favor of the new rule.
Rep. Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat who’s chairman of the Rules Committee, said on the House floor Tuesday why it was important for members to abide by the metal detectors.
“These metal detectors are manned by the same police officers who saved our lives during the insurrection while risking their own,” McGovern said. “Some members on the other side have disrespected these Capitol Police officers, verbally abused them, pushed them aside and disregarded their orders — all to avoid this basic safety measure. That is no way to treat our heroes.”
Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Rules Committee, argued against the new measure on the House floor Tuesday.
“Requiring members to pass through a metal detector each time they enter the House chamber, even if they haven’t left the area, is a sure recipe for chaos,” he said. “It’s impossible for members to socially distance when they are stacked up in a line to await their turn at passing through the metal detectors,” Cole said, adding that “this is a clear recipe for disorganization and gridlock.”
The fine also attempts to address the growing concerns from members who feel unsafe at the Capitol in the wake of the violent insurrection and those who since the attack have wanted to beef up their security due to a fear of other members.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, told reporters last week that while she is committed to addressing the concerns of her colleagues over security, that effort is hampered because “the enemy is within the House of Representatives,” referencing the rhetoric and behavior of some Republican members of Congress.
Pelosi released a statement Tuesday night following passage of the rule.
“It is beyond comprehension why any Member would refuse to adhere to these simple, commonsense steps to keep this body safe,” Pelosi stated. “It is sad that we have been forced to move forward with a rule change imposing fines on those who refuse to abide by these protections, but the People’s House must and will be safe, so that we can honor our responsibility to do the People’s work.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.