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article imageOp-Ed: Speaker Paul Ryan looks to punish live-streaming in Congress

By Jack Derricourt     Dec 29, 2016 in Politics
House Speaker Paul Ryan is seeking a new set of rules that would prevent members of the House of Representatives from live-streaming from the floor. Members of Congress that violate the new agreement would be fined and possibly face an ethics review.
The proposed rules would look to counteract any lawmakers in the House from using photos or live-streaming from the floor. According to Bloomberg, any disruptive lawmakers would be fined $500 for a first time offense. The fine would be increased to $2,500 for any repeat offenders, each time they attempted to live-stream or post to social media. Any interference with a lawmaker’s moving in or out of chambers, or any interference with a member of Congress’ microphone, would also be included in the new fines. The new rules will need to be approved by Congress in January.
Taking photos or video from the House floor is already prohibited, but Democrats ignored these restrictions in the summer. Following the Orlando nightclub shooting, the largest domestic shooting by a single perpetrator in U.S. history, the pressure to create legislation to control gun use was mounting. On June 22nd, in response to Ryan’s prevention of several gun control bills going to a vote, Democrats staged an overnight sit-in.
C-SPAN has no control over the cameras in the House, as Republicans demonstrated during the sit-in. When it became clear that the Democrats intended to occupy the House floor in protest, the Republicans gavelled the House into recess, and the cameras were turned off.
Following the blackout of their camera feed, C-SPAN used Periscope and Facebook Live feeds, from Democrat smartphones, to provide footage of the sit-in to their audience.
After the sit-in, many Republicans called for a response to restore decorum to the House. Ryan obviously sees the hefty fines as an appropriate effort to deter any unorthodox behaviour on the part of lawmakers.
House decorum is important, and should be maintained. Whoever holds the reins of Congress should look to ensure order, to allow for debate and the rule of law. As The Verge noted, in 2008, Nancy Pelosi cut off microphones and cameras on Republicans during a protest in favour of offshore drilling. But the focus of these controls should always be to advance the conversation in Washington, not to deter the democratic expression of the people.
The coming year will herald in a Republican super-majority. With such a concentration of power in the hands of one party on Capitol Hill, greater public scrutiny of legislation and the actions of the government is essential. The new fines suggested by Ryan are a prohibitive restriction on communication in a time where strong public oversight is essential to the health of U.S. politics. The next time someone pours out a passionate, unscheduled speech in the House like Rep. John Lewis, you might not hear about it at all.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about House of Representatives, Social media, Paul Ryan, Orlando shooting, Trump administration
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