WASHINGTON — Two Republican House members have been fined $5,000 for bypassing the security screening that was set up outside the House chamber in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, a senior Democratic aide said Friday.
The lawmakers, Reps. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., appear to be the first members punished under a new rule approved by the House on Tuesday night.
Spokespeople for Gohmert and Clyde did not respond to requests for comment, but Gohmert issued a statement Friday night, explaining that he had stepped out to use the restroom and did not know that he needed to be rescreened on his way back in.
“Unlike in the movie The Godfather, there are no toilets with tanks where one could hide a gun, so my reentry onto the House floor should have been a nonissue,” Gohmert said in the statement.
According to the new rules, lawmakers who bypass the metal detectors that have been installed outside some doors to the House chamber will be fined $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for each subsequent offense.
Gohmert called the policy “unconstitutional” and vowed to appeal the fine, citing a portion of the Constitution known as the Speech and Debate Clause that provides lawmakers immunity from arrest for things they say or do during a speech or debate in Congress. The clause is specifically designed to protect the legislative branch from interference by the president or executive branch agencies, and to insulate members from lawsuits and prosecutions based on actions carried out as part of their official duties. It is unclear what if any bearing it would have on Capitol security policies adopted by members themselves.
On Friday, Republicans on the Committee on House Administration alleged in a letter to the House sergeant at arms, the official tasked with imposing the fines, that “multiple members” saw House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., enter the building without completing security screening and called on him to hit her with the $5,000 penalty.
Acting sergeant at arms Timothy Blodgett responded that Capitol Police had not submitted a complaint about Pelosi violating the policy.
“House Sergeant at Arms imposes the fine after receiving an unusual occurrence report from the United States Capitol Police (USCP). An unusual incident report from the Capitol Police is appended to the document sent to the Member providing notice of the fine,” Blodgett wrote.
“Only the USCP can determine whether an individual has failed to complete security screening as only the USCP has sufficient training to determine compliance with USCP screening procedures. I have directed that the USCP produce and provide unusual incident reports on any individual who fails to complete security screening without exception. I have not received any unusual incident report from the USCP concerning the Speaker of the House.”
In the days after the equipment’s installation, some Republicans, such as Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., refused to hand their bags over to police even after they had set off the magnetometers. Others, such as Gohmert and Reps. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., and Randy Weber, R-Texas, walked around the machines on their way into the House chamber.
The metal detectors were installed in a move aimed at tightening security in the wake of the deadly Jan. 6 riot. Some Republican lawmakers have objected to being screened, prompting tense confrontations with Capitol Police.
Still others argued with the Capitol Police officers enforcing the new security measures, and one lawmaker, Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., delivered a floor speech in which he blasted the metal detectors as “appalling” and an “atrocity.”
Without naming lawmakers, Pelosi cited some of that behavior in a statement after Tuesday’s vote, noting that after the Jan. 6 insurrection, “many House Republicans began disrespecting our heroes by refusing to adhere to basic precautions keeping members of our Congressional community safe — including by dodging metal detectors, physically pushing past police, and even attempting to bring firearms into the chamber.”
“It is beyond comprehension why any Member would refuse to adhere to these simple, common-sense steps to keep this body safe,” Pelosi said, describing the rule change as “sad” but necessary to ensure the safety of lawmakers and others inside the Capitol.
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The Washington Post’s Paul Kane and Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.