It looks as if lawmakers in Washington, D.C. aren't too concerned with being transparent to the American people.
According to NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent Kasie Hunt, reporters have been told they may not film interviews with senators in the hallway unless they are able to first obtain permission from the senator and the Senate Rules Committee's chief counsel.
ALERT: Reporters at Capitol have been told they are not allow to film interviews with senators in hallways, contrary to years of precedent— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) June 13, 2017
CONDITIONS for any interview: Previously granted permission from senator AND Rules Committee of Senate— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) June 13, 2017
WHAT HAPPENED: Reporters were in hallways this morning per usual. Gallery staff were dispatched to issue verbal directive: Stop filming— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) June 13, 2017
On Tuesday, the journalist told her Twitter followers that reporters who were waiting in the hallway were told to stop filming after being notified about the rule change. But moments after the change was first reported, several Democratic and Republican senators criticized the move, with some taking to Twitter to complain about the change, demonizing the Senate Rules Committee for reportedly revising how it enforces Senate's rules on press access.
Maybe not the right moment to lower the secrecy veil on Congress. To whoever is trying to protect Senators - we can fend for ourselves. https://t.co/YSbTuaIZKV— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) June 13, 2017
Huh? Maybe worried you will catch the group of guys writing health care bill in back room somewhere. https://t.co/tp5u2dFldh— Claire McCaskill (@clairecmc) June 13, 2017
This is a bad idea. https://t.co/8qmlBSuqCG— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) June 13, 2017
The Hill has reported that up until today, the Radio and TV Gallery website stated that “videotaping and audio recording are permitted in the public areas of the House and Senate office buildings.” The alleged change represents a serious break from precedent that may not be seen as a procedurally sound one as it was implemented unilaterally by Senate Rules Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, a Republican.
After media reported on the change, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said she hadn't been consulted prior to this change. Later, however, she said Shelby had talked to her and that he “would never move forward on some major change without consulting with me. He said it was an inquiry and that we would talk about it. So he seemed to imply that they weren't going to change the policy."
This statement may appear conflicting with the reports coming from actual reporters in the Capitol, who are saying that they have been blocked from filming.
RTCA Pres Craig Caplan of C-SPAN tells me he nor any mbr of assn alerted of policy change in CapHill coverage today— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) June 13, 2017
The real test of whether an elected official cares about 1st amendment is whether they'll defend it when it's INCONVENIENT. So far so bad https://t.co/l6KzME2Ti3— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) June 13, 2017
What matters is whether decades of precedent will be broken— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) June 13, 2017
So far we have not been told we are allowed to resume hallway interviews https://t.co/kP0lq8Xowq
According to Shelby's statement on this issue, “no additional restrictions have been put in place by the Rules Committee.” Instead, he said, the committee has been “working with the various galleries to ensure compliance with existing rules.”
The odd move to keep reporters from filming interviews with senators follows the increased interest the public has shown toward lawmakers. As Americans demand greater coverage, especially as legislators are criticized for not holding public hearings concerning the Republican-led effort to repeal Obamacare, reporters have been crowding Capitol hallways like never before. Now, some lawmakers appear bent on restricting journalists' access.
While it appears that journalists have yet to regain confidence that the Senate Rules Committee isn't willing to actually embrace any official rule changes, the conclusion to this story is still up in the air. Regardless, it sure does look like some lawmakers have either a lot to hide or are simply not willing to offer any transparency to their constituents.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters