Congress passed a rule that fines members thousands of dollars if they avoid metal detectors to enter the House chamber, a push that began after the Capitol siege on Jan. 6.
The rule was designed to prevent representatives from bringing firearms into the congressional chamber and has become a point of contention after U.S. Capitol Police set up metal detectors off the House floor. Some Republican lawmakers initially avoided the machines by walking around them, prompting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to direct police to block off the sides of the scanners with tables and velvet rope.
Members will have $5,000 taken from their pay if they skirt the magnetometers one time and $10,000 for a second offense. The move to fine members for the violations was first announced by Pelosi in mid-January.
“It is tragic that this step is necessary, but the Chamber of the People’s House must and will be safe,” the speaker said in a statement at the time.
Republican lawmakers have pushed back on the rule, with freshman GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado circulating a letter Tuesday to colleagues calling the move “unconstitutional” and urging them to vote against the measure.
“I am legally permitted to carry my firearm in Washington, D.C., and within the Capitol complex,” Boebert tweeted around the time the machines were installed. “Metal detectors outside of the House would not have stopped the violence we saw last week — it’s just another political stunt by Speaker Pelosi.”
During debate about the fines on Tuesday, House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts, pointed out that members have not been permitted to carry guns inside legislative chambers for decades.
“Metal detectors were installed outside this chamber following the recent deadly insurrection in the Capitol. Although these machines are new, the policy they are enforcing is not. That has been on the books for more than 50 years,” he said.
Republican Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas characterized the move to fine members who violate the metal detector policy as a “lockdown.”
“The People’s House now is completely on lockdown. There are no people in the People’s House other than the representatives. And that’s not the way it was intended,” he said on Tuesday evening.
The Capitol riot on Jan. 6 resulted in the death of five people and wounded dozens of others. In addition to the metal detectors, fencing was installed around the complex and thousands of National Guard troops were called in from across the country to bolster security.
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