Saturday, December 31, 2016

Experts say Ryan's crackdown on livestreaming from the House floor is unconstitutional (kerry Eleveld) · Wednesday, December 28, 2016, 2:25 pm

Here's one more lesson in preparing for the mindset of the GOP's total government takeover in January: Whatever you do, don't let the Constitution stand in the way of a bad idea.

After Democrats livestreamed their day-long sit-in last summer supporting gun safety in the wake of the Orlando massacre, Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders now want to enable the sergeant-at-arms to penalize House members with fines as high as $2,500 for taking video or pictures from the chamber floor. The provision—which delegates the members' responsibilities to an external entity—will be rolled into the House rules package for consideration in early January, reports Rachel Bade.

But experts say Ryan’s proposal may run afoul of Article 1 of the Constitution, which says “each House may … punish its Members for disorderly behavior.” For more than 200 years that has been interpreted to mean any contested sanctions against lawmakers must be approved by the full House with a floor vote, attorneys steeped in congressional legal matters say.

“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,” said Mike Stern, a former lawyer for the nonpartisan House counsel’s office and the Senate Homeland Security Committee’s GOP staff.

Stern, who called the proposed rule a “plausible Constitutional issue to raise,” said Democrats could take the matter to court. “Their strongest argument would be: 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.’”


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