In response to a 25-hour sit-in this summer that Democrats livestreamed on social media, Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has proposed new fines and ethics violations for taking photos or shooting videos on the chamber floor.
Ryan's spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, said the plan "will help ensure that order and decorum are preserved in the House," but experts say this may go against Article 1 of the Constitution, which reads, "each House may … punish its Members for disorderly behavior." "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," Mike Stern, a former lawyer for the House counsel's office and the Senate Homeland Security Committee's GOP staff, told Politico. The proposed rule is a "plausible Constitutional issue to raise," he said, and the strongest argument Democrats would have against it is "the House doesn't have the authority to give these officers the power to punish us; only the power of the House can do that, and [Republicans] have short-circuited our rights by the way they've done it."
After Ryan refused to allow a vote on gun control this June, Democrats began a sit-in that was livestreamed on their phones; House rules prohibit taking video or photos of the floor. C-SPAN aired the protest until Republicans shut down the chamber and turned off their cameras, but the channel then picked up a cellphone livestream from a lawmaker. The sit-in outraged Republicans, who have spent the past few months working on a plan to either punish the lawmakers who led the protest or write new rules to deter a similar event, Politico reports. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), one of the leaders of the protest, tweeted that Republicans could "bring it on," and adding they could fine him and other House Democrats "all the way into bankruptcy for #gunviolence sit-in, but we will always speak for victims."