A pair of GOP lawmakers who were fined for refusing to use metal detectors installed at the Capitol in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection filed a lawsuit on Monday, claiming the penalty was unconstitutional and “a means of harassing” House Republicans.
In the lawsuit filed in D.C. District Court, Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Andrew Clyde (R-GA) allege the additional security screenings to enter the House chamber—and the subsequent fines for those who refuse to comply—have targeted “democratically-elected representatives who are members of the opposition party in the House of Representatives.”
“Upon information and belief, Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi [D-CA] has instituted an unconstitutional policy of enforcing the Screening Rule against only members of the Republican minority in the House of Representatives, and exempting members of the Democratic majority from its enforcement, resulting in only Republican members being fined and having their congressional salaries reduced, all for the purpose of creating a false narrative for the political benefit of the House Democratic majority,” the lawsuit filed against House Sergeant at Arms William Walker and House Chief Administrative Officer Catherine Szpindor states.
The suit claims the fines violate the Constitution’s 27th Amendment, which prohibits the change of any congressional member’s salaries until after an election, and Article 1, which states elected members are privileged from an arrest while entering or leaving the chamber—except for treason.
The pair are among six House members who have been fined for failing to comply with the metal detectors put in place in February after thousands of MAGA supporters stormed the Capitol to stop the electoral certification of President Joe Biden.
On Feb. 2, less than a month after the insurrection, the House passed a resolution that directed the House Sergeant at Arms to impose a $5,000 fine against any member who failed to complete a security screening. A second offense of the same violation would result in a $10,000 fine.
The next day, the suit states, Clyde entered the House Chamber “without being screened by security personnel or passing through a magnetometer.” On Feb. 5, Clyde says he went around the metal detectors again to avoid missing a vote on the House Floor—earning a cumulative $15,000 fine.
The lawsuit claims that on Feb. 4, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also violated the rule by “walking past the magnetometers at both the North and East entrances and entering the House Chamber via a door in the Speaker’s Lobby, without subjecting herself to search” but that security “made no effort to force her to be screened or to restrain her from entering the Chamber.”
“The Sergeant at Arms did not issue her a citation, her violation was not referred to the House Ethics Committee, and she was not fined,” the suit alleges.
That same day, Gohmert was fined $5,000 after he refused to undergo a second security screening after leaving the House floor to use the restroom. The lawsuit says that one day prior, Gohmert was not screened a second time when he went to briefly use the men’s room.
The lawsuit claims that other Democratic lawmakers have been exempted from the rule, including one who allegedly set off the metal detector’s alarm before rushing past a security officer.
News reports, however, note that several GOP lawmakers have ignored the metal detectors and even argued with Capitol Police officers over them. In late January, Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) was found to be carrying a concealed gun after undergoing a metal detector test to enter the House chamber.
So far, six House members have been fined, including House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC). To date, the House Ethics Committee has upheld fines against Gohmert and Clyde but agreed to dismiss fines against Clyburn and another Republican. Three other cases are still pending.
According to the resolution, lawmakers have up to 30 days to file an appeal of the fine to the House Ethics Committee. A bipartisan committee will then decide whether to dismiss the fine.