House lawmakers are now required to go through a metal detector security screening before being allowed to enter the chamber — a precautionary measure that galled several Republicans Tuesday, some of whom uttered obscenities or ignored the devices, claiming they were impeding them from voting.
The new safety protocol announced earlier in the day from the acting sergeant-at-arms arrived less than a week after a mob loyal to President Trump stormed the US Capitol. Five people died because of the insurrection.
The acting sergeant-at-arms, Timothy P. Blodgett, wrote to House staff: “Effective immediately, all persons, including Members, are required [to] undergo security screening when entering the House Chamber.”
Previously, members of Congress had almost free roam at the Capitol, able to bypass security screening stations at most entrances to the building. At the House chamber, there have been Capitol Police officers and civilian door monitors but no screening stations.
Blodgett also told lawmakers that they must wear masks during the COVID-19 crisis and that they face removal from the chamber if they fail to do so.
The screening requirement comes as at least one lawmaker, freshman Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert, a Republican, has talked openly about carrying her firearm around town and onto the Capitol grounds, which has infuriated gun-control Democrats.
When lawmakers headed into the chamber Tuesday night — convening for the first time since after the violent attack on the Capitol — most obliged with the new safety protocol without issue. But some Republicans did not.
Several lawmakers simply walked around the devices, while others protested their installation and pushed past the officers.
Boebert set off a metal detector, but it wasn’t clear if she had a cellphone or another metal object in her purse. She refused to allow a search of her bag and eventually was let into the House chamber.
“Metal detectors outside of the House would not have stopped the violence we saw last week — it’s just another political stunt by Speaker Pelosi,” Boebert said.
Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib said some of her colleagues were “frustrated” by the new requirement, but now they know how high school students in her district feel.
“Suck it up buttercups,” Tlaib, a Democrat, said. “Y’all brought this on yourselves.”
One of the Republicans upset with the new security screening was Arizona Representative Debbie Lesko, who said lawmakers “now live in Pelosi’s communist America.”
She compared the implemented measures to being treated “like criminals.”
“For members of Congress to enter the floor of the [US] House, we now have to go through intense security measures, on top of the security we already go through,” Lesko said. “These new provisions include searches and being wanded like criminals.”
Lesko was not the only Republican to equate the changes — designed to enhance the safety of the Capitol and protect lawmakers — to living in a communist regime, nor to being treated like an offender.
In an interview with Fox News, California Representative Devin Nunes said lawmakers having to walk through a magnetometer to get into the chamber was “as if we’re criminals” and that he thinks “we’re in a very dark place.”
“I’m not joking — when you talk about the fall of the Soviet Union, what did they start to do?” Nunes said. “They started to crack down. They started to crack down on people. That’s what you see here.”
Some GOP lawmakers, such as Louisiana Representative Steve Scalise, complained to CNN correspondent Manu Raju that the situation is “untenable” because it “impedes the ability of members to come and vote.”
“This is our job,” the No. 2 Republican said. Raju posted Scalise’s remarks alongside a photo of a relatively small group of people waiting by the metal detectors.
More than one Democrat took issue with the actions of their Republican colleagues, including New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who said that the overt — and sometimes illegal — display of weapons by lawmakers has repercussions, with enhanced safety measures being one of them.
“It’s as though GOP members promoting videos of themselves illegally carrying firearms on Capitol grounds, posting images of themselves holding guns next to Democratic members, [and] inciting an attack on the Capitol has consequences!” she said. “Naturally, GOP are crying [and] playing victim.”
Missouri Representative Cori Bush said if her Republican colleagues “won’t abide by the rules of this job,” they can “go find another one.”
“Have you ever had a job before?” the freshman lawmaker said. “If you work at McDonald’s and you don’t wear the uniform, you don’t work that day.”
HuffPost reporter Matt Fuller, who documented the scene in a series of tweets, said it was “pretty amazing” to witness “Republican Members of Congress, after the week that Capitol Police has had, push their way past officers and not follow rules about metal detectors on the floor.”
See some accounts of the — at times — tense standoffs:
The metal detectors are going to be useless if they’re just going to let the members who don’t want to go through the magnetometer sidestep it.— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) January 13, 2021
I’m watching Democrats and about 4/5ths of Republicans comply. It’s really causing tension between police and members.
To clarify for people here, Stivers did go through the magnetometer. He just told the cops he thought it was unconstitutional.— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) January 13, 2021
GOP TX Rep Chip Roy: “The metal detector policy for the House floor is unnecessary, unconstitutional, and endangers members. I did not comply tonight. I will not comply in the future.”— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) January 13, 2021
>@RepGregSteube sees metal detectors outside the House chamber, says Joe Biden's going to take your guns.— Mike DeBonis (@mikedebonis) January 13, 2021
"Take note, America. This is what you have to look forward to. ... If they can do it right here in the people's house, they will attempt to do it across the country."
Rep. Rodney Davis told Mullin not to shout at Capitol Police, and he said: “This is not their fault, they’re doing their job.”— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 13, 2021
But Davis, who is the top Republican on House Admin, told me: “I’m pissed” that the mags have gone up without any consultation.
Yes, yes. It was Rep. Ralph Norman, not Governor Ralph Northham.— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) January 13, 2021
That’s an autocorrect, I swear.
For members of Congress to enter the floor of the U.S. House, we now have to go through intense security measures, on top of the security we already go through. These new provisions include searches and being wanded like criminals. We now live in Pelosi’s communist America!— Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (@RepDLesko) January 13, 2021
To my colleagues who won't go through the metal detectors:— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) January 13, 2021
Have you ever had a job before? If you work at McDonald’s and you don’t wear the uniform, you don’t work that day.
If you won’t abide by the rules of this job, go find another one 👋🏾 https://t.co/rPO2xek1iB
Rep. Van Taylor is in front of me as I'm trying to go in to vote, refusing to pass through a metal detector and arguing with U.S. Capitol Police officers about it— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) January 13, 2021
As we speak, my colleagues from the @GOP party of “law and order” are literally blowing past the @CapitolPolice, talking back to them and refusing to go through the metal detectors installed today to protect us from them. Yet another way they are endangering our lives. 😡 https://t.co/jJAbj9ogTM— Grace Meng (@Grace4NY) January 13, 2021
Two GOP Reps. angry about new metal detectors to get on House floor, reports pooler @elwasson “This is bull****," Rep. Rodney Davis tells USCP officers while Rep. Steve Womack yelled at them: "You are creating a problem you do not understand the ramifications of"— Emily Goodin (@Emilylgoodin) January 13, 2021
Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL): "I would be remiss if I didn't address the atrocity occurring right here on the House floor today." (He's referring to having to go thru metal detectors.) "Take note America. This is what you have to look forward to in the Joe Biden administration."— Michael McAuliff (@mmcauliff) January 13, 2021
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.