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House votes to impose fines of up to $10,000 on lawmakers who flout security screening

The House of Representatives on Feb. 2 voted to penalize lawmakers who seek to bypass security screening measures at the U.S. Capitol. (Video: The Washington Post)

The House voted Tuesday night to penalize lawmakers who seek to bypass the security screening measures that have been enacted in the wake of the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, with members facing a $5,000 fine for the first offense and $10,000 each time thereafter.

The measure passed on a 216-to-210 vote, with all but three Democrats present voting in favor and all Republicans present voting “no.”

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Rules Committee, defended the move in an impassioned floor speech in which he blasted the “elitist mentality” of those who have ignored the screening procedures, imploring his fellow lawmakers to recognize that “the rules apply to us, too — and it’s time all of us acted like it.”

“Apparently, some of my friends on the other side think differently,” McGovern said. “Some are acting as though by being elected to Congress, they have been anointed to some sort of special club — one that gets to pick and choose what rules to follow.”

Last month, metal detectors were installed outside some doors to the House chamber in a move aimed at tightening security in the wake of the deadly riot. Tense interactions between Republican lawmakers and U.S. Capitol Police soon followed.

Some House members, such as Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), refused to hand their bags over to police even after they had set off the magnetometers. Others, such as Reps. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) and Randy Weber (R-Tex.), walked right around the machines on their way into the House chamber.

Still others argued with the Capitol Police officers enforcing the new security measures, and one lawmaker, Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.), delivered a floor speech in which he blasted the metal detectors as “appalling” and an “atrocity.”

Without naming any lawmakers, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) cited some of that behavior in a statement after Tuesday’s vote, noting that after the attempted insurrection, “many House Republicans began disrespecting our heroes by refusing to adhere to basic precautions keeping members of our Congressional community safe — including by dodging metal detectors, physically pushing past police, and even attempting to bring firearms into the chamber.”

“It is beyond comprehension why any Member would refuse to adhere to these simple, commonsense steps to keep this body safe,” Pelosi said, describing the rule change as “sad” but necessary to ensure the safety of lawmakers and others inside the Capitol.

The measure that was approved Tuesday directs the House sergeant-at-arms to fine members for failure to complete security screening for entrance to the House chamber. If lawmakers do not pay the fine within 90 days, the amount will be deducted directly from their congressional salary.

In his remarks ahead of the vote, McGovern argued that “this is no messaging bill. This is as serious as it gets.”

“Apparently, it will take a rules change to ensure all members follow the rules, just like everyone else,” he said.

Boebert’s chief of staff, Jeff Small, sent an email to all other chiefs of staff Tuesday night urging lawmakers to vote against the measure, blasting the proposed fines as “unconstitutional.”

Pelosi said in a letter to House Democrats earlier Tuesday that lawmakers will also be given increased security when traveling to and from Washington by air and train.

“Among other steps, USCP will be stationed at BWI, IAD, DCA and Union Station to provide extra security on days with increased Member travel,” Pelosi said in the letter, referring to Washington-area airports and other transit hubs.

“Given the serious and ongoing security threats facing Members and the Congress, it is clear that there is a need for an emergency supplemental funding bill to meet institutional security needs,” she added. “It is also clear that we will need to establish a 9/11-type Commission to examine and report upon the facts, causes and security relating to the terrorist mob attack on January 6.”

Meagan Flynn and Jaclyn Peiser contributed to this report.