Ridiculous Congressional Proposal Would Fine Reps Who Live Stream From The Floor

from the congress-excels-at-petty-actions dept

It would be nice if we weren’t remind daily just how petty politicians can be (on all sides of the aisle… so don’t go making this about one party or the other). Over the summer, we wrote about a situations in which House Democrats tried to stage a protest on the House floor — and House Republicans responded by gavelling the House out of session and turning off the live feed on C-SPAN so that the protest could not be easily seen (again, this isn’t partisan: the House Dems did the same to House Repubs eight years ago). In response, some of those participating in the protest started using Periscope and Facebook Live to livestream online from the floor.

And, now, just to turn up the level of petty vindictiveness, some House Representatives have proposed fining Congressional Reps who live stream (or post photos) from the House floor.

… the new policy would fine representatives $500 for the first offense of broadcasting video, audio, or photos, and rise to $2,500 thereafter. In order to take effect, the proposal would need to be approved by the House when its next session starts in January.

And, of course, supporters of the proposal change are doing their best to give totally bullshit reasons for this petty action, claiming that it’s about “ensuring” that “order and decorum are preserved in the House.” That’s a load of hogwash. This is just politicians acting like elementary school children yet again.

The push for this is being led by Speaker Paul Ryan, who apparently doesn’t much care for the Constitution. You see, people who actually have read the Constitution are noting that this proposal is likely unconstitutional:

But experts say Ryan?s proposal may run afoul of Article 1 of the Constitution, which says ?each House may ? punish its Members for disorderly behavior.? For more than 200 years that has been interpreted to mean any contested sanctions against lawmakers must be approved by the full House with a floor vote, attorneys steeped in congressional legal matters say.

?The Constitution gives the House the authority to discipline members; I have never heard of anything where an officer of the House was given that authority,? said Mike Stern, a former lawyer for the nonpartisan House counsel?s office and the Senate Homeland Security Committee?s GOP staff.

Meanwhile, one of the members who took part in the streaming, Rep. Eric Swawell, is coming out fighting against this proposal:

Back in June, Swalwell responded to the shutdown of the C-SPAN cameras by pushing a proposal that would have given control of C-SPAN’s camera stream to C-SPAN, rather than petty politicians in the House who can shut down the stream whenever they want to.

And, honestly, as I’m writing this entire post, I’m sitting here wondering why the hell this is an issue. Of all the things that Congress should be doing right now, is this really a major priority? To try to punish Congressional representatives for actually wanting to provide a more transparent look into what happens on the floor?

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Comments on “Ridiculous Congressional Proposal Would Fine Reps Who Live Stream From The Floor”

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33 Comments
Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

As someone who isn’t from the US, center-left oriented (that’s the best I could come with but it’s not quite right) I personally thing both D’s and R’s are terrible. And while I agree with you I can see his point as well. Even though both ‘teams’ are bad and spew bad ideas I do think the R party manages to be worse by a few degrees of magnitude. And the people who generally think the R’s are good also call for military intervention and a totalitarian regime. So… Yeah.

I’m not taking any sides, there seem to be good Republican politicians here and there but generally speaking R’s are a world of bad worse than D’s. That coming from a person (me) who thinks Hillary is more of everything that’s wrong with the US. Trump? I’d rather not delve into it and let him speak. Suffice to say that the bigotry is the least worrying part of him.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

both parties do this.

"This" as in political gamesmanship, sure.

"This" as in trying to impose fines for livestreaming from Congress, no, only one party has ever done that.

I can think of plenty of ridiculous things the Dems did when they were in power, but none that’s directly analogous to this situation. If you’ve got an example, I’m happy to hear it.

Michael (profile) says:

This is frickin’ 2016.

It would probably cost about $50 per year to have two live cameras with feeds to a website running 24×7.

Why would they ever need to be shut down? Don’t our representatives think it is reasonable for any citizen to be able to watch lawmaking happen any time they want?

Not only should the politicians not have control over the cameras, NOBODY should.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Tell that to the supreme court while you’re at it.

In all seriousness
Our government is afraid of us…

The people have a right to be upset with our government, from automatic pay raises for congressional members to their insider trading they ruled legal for themselves and on and on and on.

Congress has held the lowest ongoing favor-ability ratings since well Paul Ryan got elected.

Time for a 300 million person march on D.C..

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Congress’s cumulative approval rating is one of those numbers that people like to throw out there but which doesn’t really mean much of anything (like "Senator X voted with his party 90% of the time"). You get to vote for (at most) three people in Congress; your opinion on the other 532 is essentially meaningless.

Statistically speaking, most people like their own representatives; that’s why incumbents get reelected at a rate of over 90%. (Well, that and gerrymandering.) In a strongly anti-incumbent year like 2010, that number might dip as low as the mid-80’s.

Most people don’t like lawyers, but they like their lawyer. Similarly, most people don’t like Congress, but they like their representatives.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re:

It would probably cost about $50 per year to have two live cameras with feeds to a website running 24×7.

They’ve had live cameras in the House and Senate since 1979. It’s called C-SPAN.

Why would they ever need to be shut down?

Because the minority party was staging a protest and the majority party didn’t want anyone to see it.

All of this is explained in the first paragraph of the article.

Don’t our representatives think it is reasonable for any citizen to be able to watch lawmaking happen any time they want?

No.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

I love how recording and/or transmitting public happenings is _disorderly_. Cops. Congress. (It’s more fun because almost always it is perfectly legal and no one is interfering with or disrupting anything.) But actually invasive surveillance in a plethora of forms, including those allowed by the same Congress, are totes OK.

We are definitely in a how-stupid-can-we-get contest. It doesn’t matter who the challengers are because first and foremost, one must compete against oneself.

Ninja (profile) says:

As far as I can see, every piece of legislative discussion/vote/whatever, every judicial hearing, every action by the executive that directly impacts the lives of the citizens should be public. Actual exceptions for very few instances such as military/security related discussions very narrowly defined. So, almost all hearings should be public.

But then again, this would be in an ideal world where politicians actually represented their constituents.

Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously says:

Two reasons

Firstly, everybody is doing it (I just read two posts about intelligence agencies not responding to FOIA-requests), so off course the politicians want to obfuscate their embarassments too.
Secondly, they just went through an expensive election and need to pay off their pwners by passing laws that will be unpopular with the public. Naturally they don’t want anybody to witness that.

Your founding fathers expected it would come to this and `constitutioned’ appropriately. However, the constitution gets violated so much these days, that it is no longer viewed as a problem (as long as the good guys (i.e. me!) do it).

Anonymous Coward says:

A few possible futures for this

1) They change it so that it does fit constitutional requirements, but it just happens that a R is never put to a vote and a D always gets a vote for every single infraction.
2) All electronic devices are banned from congressional meetings except for select members who have an immediate need. Those individuals just happen to be the current majority party leadership who can then use it whenever they want.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Well they approve of secret courts with secret laws, they just want to be able to deliberate in secret & not have the american people see the lobbyists handing them checks on the floor.

The simple fact they don’t want the public to see how they really behave should worry us. These people are supposed to represent us, and we are subject to mass surveillance… why not them?

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