As part of what many have described as an over-the-top reaction by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to a riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, metal detectors were installed outside the main entrances to the House floor, and members were told they must submit to a screening before entering, lest they be hit with hefty fines.
Among those to fall victim to Pelosi’s new policy was Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican who filed an appeal with the House Ethics Committee after being fined $5,000 for allegedly bypassing the metal detectors, a claim he disputes. But unfortunately for Gohmert, it looks like Pelosi is the big winner this time around.
According to the Washington Examiner, Gohmert’s appeal to the Ethics panel was roundly rejected this week, despite the congressman’s best efforts.
Thousands of dollars in fines
Rep. Gohmert’s fine and subsequent appeal stemmed from a notice he received on Feb. 4 from then-acting House Sergeant-at-Arms Timothy Blodgett, who said the congressman was being fined $5,000, to be pulled from his House salary, for his “failure to complete security screening” before entering the chamber, the Examiner reported.
In his appeal letter to the Ethics Committee, Gohmert argued that he had indeed completed the security screening and passed through the metal detectors that day upon his arrival at the House floor. The Republican explained that he had later exited the chamber to use a members-only restroom located next to the Speaker’s Lobby — where there are no metal detectors — and returned through that unguarded lobby moments later, as he had done countless times previously.
“Arbitrary and capricious”
After being fined for such an act, Gohmert asserted in his appeal that the vaguely-worded rules imposed by Pelosi are “arbitrary and capricious,” as well as unnecessary, since there are no known threats from members of Congress against other members. Gohmert also charged that the policy was being enforced in an “arbitrary and discriminatory” manner, as he had personally witnessed Democrats — including the speaker herself — avoiding the screening process to gain entry to the chamber without being fined.
“There was no notice of a change in the requirement that once all the requirements were met and the House floor entered, that I would have to be wanded upon returning from the restroom mere feet from the Speaker’s Lobby,” Gohmert said in his letter, according to the Washington Examiner. “The fact is, I went through the metal detector properly.”
Gohmert also argued that a $5,000 fine — $10,000 for subsequent offenses — was too steep for members of Congress like himself who aren’t independently wealthy. “Because I have sacrificed to become a public servant and am not a millionaire as is the Speaker, who arbitrarily set the amount of the fine, this kind of massive fine becomes an arbitrary bar to eliminate the non-wealthy from Congress,” he wrote, according to Roll Call.
“There is no legitimate or compelling basis nor need to detain Members of Congress to require them to be screened by metal detectors or wands before they are allowed to enter into debate or voting on the House floor,” the congressman added.
Pelosi wins this round
Unfortunately for Gohmert, it appears the 10-member House Ethics Committee was unmoved by his pleas. A news release issued by the panel on Tuesday noted simply that “a majority of the Committee did not agree to the appeal.”
The Ethics panel is made up of five Democrats and five Republicans, and votes are “taken in secret,” according to the Washington Examiner, meaning it’s unclear who voted for or against the appeal.
In any case, it seems Pelosi won this particular battle, and Gohmert will soon see $5,000 deducted from his paycheck — all for the crime of merely entering his place of work.