Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), senior Member of the House Judiciary Committee, issued the following statement condemning the proposed Republican rules package. Although the GOP leadership withdrew one provision in response to overwhelming public opposition to changes that would undermine independent ethics oversight, the rules would still block free speech on the House floor.
The full statement, as prepared, can be found below:
“Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to H. Res. 5, the Republican rules package. As Republicans prepare to control all levers of government, their first course of action was to shield Members of Congress from independent ethics oversight, and to block free speech on the House floor. This is an assault on democracy, and a dangerous way to begin a new Congress.
“Fortunately, after a groundswell of opposition, they have withdrawn their outrageous proposal to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics, which would have removed its independence and severely limited its power. Our democracy rests on the consent of the governed. It can only truly function if the American people make their voices heard and hold their elected representatives responsible when they act in a manner that is contrary to their beliefs. It is a testament to the grassroots in this country that the Republicans were forced to reverse course. I hope the American people will continue to demand open and honest government as we face the many challenges ahead.
“Unfortunately, this resolution still includes an equally troubling provision – a gag rule that imposes steep fines on any Member who records proceedings on the House floor, and prohibits certain conduct deemed to be “disorderly and disruptive”. This is obviously in response to last year's Democratic sit-in protesting the Republican refusal to allow debate on legislation to protect Americans from the epidemic of gun violence. After the Republican Leadership shut off C-SPAN cameras, resourceful Democratic Members used social media to broadcast the protest so that the public could hear its elected representatives demand that the House, at long last, consider reasonable gun safety legislation.
“The lesson Republicans drew from this protest, however, was not that Americans should be protected from the scourge of gun violence. It was that Members who stand up and say "Enough is enough" should be punished for taking extraordinary measures to make sure their voices are heard. That is an outrage!
“This is the People’s House. It is supposed to foster free speech and free expression, as protected by the First Amendment and the Speech and Debate clause of the Constitution. This provision would have a chilling effect on speech, and would punish Members who ensure that the public has access to floor proceedings.
“The initial draft of this resolution would have done all this without any due process whatsoever. Although it has now been amended to include some limited right of appeal to the Ethics Committee, this provision is still constitutionally dubious, at best.
“I find it ironic that, in the same week that we read the Constitution on the House floor, we are taking up a resolution that is so at odds with some of the Constitution’s most cherished principles. As we prepare to inaugurate a President who will be violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause from the day he is sworn in, I would hope that this House would be more faithful to our founding values.
“I urge a no vote on this resolution.”