The House Ethics Committee is considering the appeals of two Republicans who were penalized thousands of dollars for circumventing security screening set up outside the chamber floor after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Andrew Clyde of Georgia were both fined for skirting the metal detectors.
They are accused of violating the rule adopted by the House in February to address security concerns. Magnetometers were installed at the entrance to the House chamber Jan. 12, a move that elicited strong opposition from Republicans and engulfed members in partisan bickering.
When the Capitol Police notices a member violating the rule, the department provides a report to acting House Sergeant-at-Arms Timothy P. Blodgett, who is then tasked with imposing the $5,000 fine for first-time offenders and $10,000 for subsequent infractions.
Clyde has been cited for two violations: one on Feb. 3 for $5,000 and another violation on Feb. 5 for $10,000. Gohmert was fined $5,000 for a Feb. 4 violation.
A Capitol Police report on the Feb. 3 incident at the west lobby entrance to the Speaker’s Lobby says Clyde “deliberately avoided being screened by refusing to go to the magnetometer at the Rep Door. Officer [name redacted] attempted to explain the requirement for the Members of Congress to be screened. … Congressman Clyde continued past the officer and into the House Chamber.”
The Feb. 5 report noted that Clyde “deliberately avoided being screened by refusing to submit to secondary screening after setting off the magnetometer at the Rep Door.”
The report for Gohmert’s violation at the same entrance to the Speaker’s Lobby was similar to that of Clyde’s.
Representatives for both members did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Just days after the rule was implemented, Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, the ranking Republican on the House Administration Committee, wrote to Blodgett alleging that Speaker Nancy Pelosi had avoided security screening on her way to the floor. Blodgett responded that he has directed the Capitol Police to notify him of anyone who breaks the rule “without exception.”
Members can appeal the fine to the House Ethics panel within 30 calendar days of being notified. Unless a majority of the 10-member bipartisan committee votes in favor of the appeal, the lawmaker must pay the fine.
If a member does not pay the fine, eventually the House chief administrative officer is directed to take the money from their salary. Members cannot use official funds or campaign funds to cover the cost.
If Clyde or Gohmert disagree with the decision of the Ethics panel, they could take the issue to court; however, it is unlikely the courts would rule it is unconstitutional for the House to impose fines on members for breaking chamber rules. The House in July imposed on Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., a fine of $50,000 for several violations, for instance, which he agreed to pay.