A week after president Donald Trump incited his supporters to storm the US Capitol in an attempt to overthrow the government and stop lawmakers from certifying president-elect Joe Biden’s electoral win, House Republicans are outraged.
They are outraged that they have to use a metal detector at work.
The House sergeant at arms announced on Tuesday that politicians will now have to be screened before entering the House chamber in an effort to provide “a safe and secure environment” for conducting business. The change comes after some raised concerns about Trump’s allies in Congress being co-conspirators with the insurrectionists and potentially carrying guns onto the House floor, which is prohibited.
Most people were fine with the enhanced security. After all, it was just last week when they feared for their lives and barricaded themselves in the House chamber as police officers fended off violent white supremacists trying to smash their way inside. The insurrection left five people dead, and it could have been much, much worse.
But starting on Tuesday evening and going into Wednesday, some House Republicans had full-blown tantrums at the idea of walking through a metal detector – something everyone else in America has to do all the time, whether at airports, schools or other buildings.
“Horse shit!” shouted representative Rodney Davis. “Bullshit!”
“You are creating a problem you do not understand the ramifications of!”representative Steve Womackwarned Capitol Police officers.
“You can’t stop me, I’m on my way to a vote,” said representative Louie Gohmert, walking around the detector outside the House chamber.
Pepresentative Russ Fulcher just pushed his way through. He went through the metal detector and set it off, shoved an officer out of his way and walked into the House.
HuffPost’s Matt Fuller stood outside the House and watched several Republican politicians refuse to walk through the metal detector or stop when it beeped.
Representative Steve Stivers made a point to tell Capitol Police officers that he thinks that making politicians use metal detectors is unconstitutional. So did representative Chip Roy, who said a metal detector is ”unconstitutional” and “endangers members.” (There is nothing in the Constitution about not having to walk through a metal detector.)
At best, the fact that any member of Congress is fuming about the inconvenience of a metal detector – days after a violent insurrection at the Capitol, when the coronavirus is killing roughly 4,000 Americans every day, in the midst of a presidential impeachment – reflects an embarrassing level of entitlement and shows how out of touch they are with regular Americans, who would not fare well at airport security if they shouted about the Constitution and blew past the metal detector.
At worst, it suggests they are bringing guns onto the House floor and don’t want to get caught. There’s precedent for this concern: representative Madison Cawthorn said he was armed during the insurrection, which GOP lawmakers like him helped incite in the first place.
At least one congresswoman of colour, representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, said she was scared she would be killed during the lockdown in part because of white supremacists in Congress who might publicly reveal her location. Representative Cedric Richmond, who is leaving Congress for a job in the Biden administration, similarly said on Wednesday that he believed some of his colleagues “may be co-conspirators” with the insurrectionists.
It’s not clear what authority Capitol Police officers have, if any, to stop lawmakers from going onto the House floor without being screened first. They are not allowed to arrest members of Congress on their way to a vote, per the Constitution. They also can’t arrest them while they’re in a session in their chamber, or when they’re going to or coming from that chamber. The only exceptions are if they’re committing treason, a felony or a breach of the peace.
But House speaker Nancy Pelosi may have figured out a way to tamp down on the defiance of metal detectors: fines.
In a Wednesday night statement, Pelosi said the House will move forward with a rule change when it comes back in session on January 21 that will impose fines on members of Congress “who refuse to abide by these protections.”
The fine for the first offence will be £3,600, and £7,300 for the second offence. The fines will be deducted directly from lawmakers’ salaries.
“It is tragic that this step is necessary,” Pelosi said, “but the Chamber of the People’s House must and will be safe.”