Clyde says he will take magnetometer fine matter to federal court

Georgia Republican says rule is in violation of the Constitution and ‘meritless’

Speaker Nancy Pelosi walks through a metal detector before entering the House chamber on Jan. 21.  (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi walks through a metal detector before entering the House chamber on Jan. 21. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Posted April 12, 2021 at 6:14pm

Rep. Andrew Clyde says he will go to federal court to fight $15,000 in fines he incurred for dodging security screening at the entrance to the House floor.

On Monday, the House Ethics Committee announced it upheld both fines the Georgia Republican was assessed for eluding the magnetometers. Under a rule adopted by the chamber in February, a member who fails to complete security screening is fined $5,000 on the first instance and $10,000 for subsequent offenses.

Clyde was cited for “deliberately” avoiding security screening by the Capitol Police on two occasions, the first on Feb. 5 and the second on Feb. 8, according to the Ethics panel. Acting House Sergeant-at-Arms Timothy P. Blodgett was tasked with imposing the fine.

“While my team and I continue to await an announcement of a fine levied on the Speaker, we are preparing for the next stage of this fight,” Clyde said Monday in a statement announcing his intentions. “I will take my case to federal court where I am confident justice will be served.”

Georgia Rep. Andrew Clyde is taking his case to federal court. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Clyde’s reference to Speaker Nancy Pelosi points to a letter that Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, the ranking Republican on the House Administration Committee, wrote to Blodgett, alleging that Pelosi avoided a security screening in February on her way to the floor. Blodgett responded to Davis that he has directed the Capitol Police to notify him of anyone who breaks the rule “without exception.”

Unconstitutional

In his appeal to the Ethics Committee, Clyde said the rule requiring members to be subject to the magnetometers is in violation of the Constitution and “meritless.”

It is relatively rare for members of Congress to sue the institution in which they serve. One notable recent exception was House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy’s decision last year to challenge the constitutionality of proxy voting in the chamber with a lawsuit aimed at Pelosi.

McCarthy, along with several other House Republicans and some constituents, said that the transition to proxy voting — spurred by the coronavirus pandemic — diluted members’ votes and, by extension, their constituents’ collective representation.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, was dismissed in August on jurisdictional grounds. They then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The case is still active.

In a joint statement released Monday, House Ethics Chairman Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and ranking member Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., said a majority of the 10-member, bipartisan panel did not agree to the appeal, leaving Clyde on the hook for $15,000, unless a federal judge agrees with him.

Their statement is significant because it indicates some bipartisan support for dismissing the appeal. The panel is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, and Walorski’s name was on the Ethics statement.

If Clyde does not pay the fine, eventually the House chief administrative officer can take the money from his salary. Members cannot use official funds or campaign funds to cover the cost.

On March 30, the Ethics panel rejected Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert's appeal of a $5,000 fine levied on him for circumventing the new metal detectors outside the House chamber.

GOP targeted?

In Clyde’s letter of appeal to the committee, he did not mention any intent to sue if things did not go his way. But he did suggest that Republicans were being singled out.

“It is deeply concerning that, to date, only Republicans have been reported to have been cited for a violation of H. Res. 73,” he wrote, referring to the House rules package.

The added screening is an issue for the Capitol Police, particularly when members are heading to vote, according to one officer who asked to remain anonymous to speak candidly.

“Say a congressman looks at you and says, ‘I’m not going through that.’ What do you do as a police officer? You can’t arrest a member, right?” the officer said. “So what do you do? Nobody knows.”

There is no clear policy for officers to follow when it comes to the security screenings at the entrance to the House floor, the officer said.

“So that’s the next predicament we’re in. You going to create a policy for this? You going to let us know what you want to do? It’s been how long? And we still don’t have a policy.”

Katherine Tully-McManus contributed to this report.