Take a Selfie, Pay a Fine

Take a Selfie, Pay a Fine

- in House of Representatives


House Democrats, including Rep. John Lewis, center, during a sit-in protest last June.

Rep. Chillie Pingree, via Associated Press

House Democrats, ever chafing in the minority, staged a headline-grabbing protest in June — sending out selfies of themselves seizing the House floor in an impromptu sit-in to demand a gun safety debate after the Orlando nightclub shooting left 49 dead. In reaction, the Republicans declared a quick recess and turned off the C-Span television coverage.

But the Democrats took to streaming their protest live via cellphones in a free-media all-nighter. Senators came over to join and President Obama tweeted cheers. “Sometimes you have to make a way out of no way,” explained Representative John Lewis, the Georgia Democrat and ever-vigilant civil rights protest leader.

Republicans were left sputtering about House decorum. This week they made clear just how much they didn’t like being one-upped. They approved new House rules and penalties that prohibit lawmakers from taking photos and video on the House floor. Violators are subject to a $500 fine, and additional infractions mean fines of $2,500 each. Serial selfie-takers could be referred to the Committee on Ethics, the opaque panel that members know well as the vortex where complaints against themselves are disappeared.

For years, House lawmakers had routinely ignored a photo ban, clicking away on special occasions with no consequences. This G.O.P. Congress resolves to be different, specifying muscle against members who “impede, disrupt or disturb the proceedings of the House.” Before the fines were approved on Tuesday, Democrats made merry of their defiance, snapping fresh selfies with abandon.

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