January 14, 2021
After last week’s insurrection at the Capitol, metal detectors were installed at certain entrances to the building, including to the House chamber. Pretty much immediately, Republican members of Congress pitched a fit about it. Now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says lawmakers will be fined $5,000 if they try to skip past the new security measures.
Anyone who has visited Capitol Hill knows that, for members of the public, it was already full of metal detectors. Members of Congress, however, were often able to bypass security so long as they showed their lawmaker pins. But the Capitol insurrection has changed all that. On Jan. 12, memos regarding the new security measures were sent to all members of Congress by newly appointed acting Sergeant-at-Arms Timothy Blodgett, who assumed the position after Michael Stenger resigned.
“To ensure compliance with Capitol Police Board regulations concerning firearms and incendiary devices, as well as to provide a safe and secure environment in which to conduct legislative business, effective immediately, all persons, including members, are required [to] undergo security screening when entering the House chamber,” Blodgett wrote in his memo, according to The Hill.
But several Republican lawmakers have simply refused to comply, and it didn’t take long for Pelosi to grow tired of the antics. On Jan. 13, she announced that lawmakers who refuse to follow security protocols will be fined $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for the second. She said, “It is a tragic step that this is necessary, but the Chamber of the People’s House must and will be safe.”
Many Republicans were quite dramatic about their refusal to cooperate with the security measures. Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) referred to the security measures as evidence of “Pelosi’s communist America.”CNN’s Manu Raju tweeted that Reps. Markwayne Mullin (Okla.) and Steve Womack (Alaska) shouted at Capitol police as they tried to enter the chamber, saying “They cannot stop me” and “I was physically restrained!” respectively.
In addition, CNN’s Washington correspondent Ryan Nobles documented Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.)’s standoff with Capitol police. Boebert is perhaps most well known for her desire to be able to carry a gun during votes on the House floor. Nobles tweeted that Boebert set off the metal detector with her bag and refused to allow Capitol security to search it.
“Capitol Police won’t let her in until Boebert shows them what is in her bag, but she won’t and is now standing by the entrance of the chamber. She is respectful but defiant,” Nobles wrote. Boebert was eventually admitted to the chamber, although it’s unclear if anyone ended up searching her bag.
Some Republicans have gone further, refusing to comply and then trying discredit reporters’ accounts of their refusal to comply. On Jan. 13, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) complained about an NBC News article on Republican House members defying Capitol security. The article cited Matt Fuller, a reporter for HuffPost, who said he saw at least 12 Republican lawmakers who either set off the metal detectors and kept walking, or bypassed them entirely. He named Foxx and Mullin as well as Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, and Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert.
Foxx tweeted, “False. Is this really what the mainstream media is choosing to do? Write a story based off a tweet from a HuffPost reporter? It’s not journalism, it’s sensationalism.” Fuller replied in a quote tweet that Foxx “absolutely walked through the metal detector, set it off, and kept walking. I’m not going to make up a story.”
In addition to Pelosi’s fines, Republicans’ actions have been condemned by other Democratic lawmakers. In a series of tweets, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) wrote, “Just had to go through a metal detector before entering the House floor. Some colleagues are frustrated (guess which ones) by this requirement. Now they know how [high school] students in my district feel. Suck it up buttercups. Y’all brought this on yourselves.”
About an hour later, Tlaib summed up most people’s frustrations with Republicans when she followed up with, “The GOP complain about wearing a mask, going through a metal detector, [and] proxy voting. They never complain about their own lies that has led to white supremacists threatening their colleagues or their lawless chief executive. This is what ultimate privilege looks like.”