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Supreme Court snubs House Republicans who dodged metal detectors in Congress after Jan. 6

In World
April 15, 2024

What happens in Congress stays in Congress, the Supreme Court signaled on Monday, as it turned away an appeal by three Republican congressmen who were fined $5,000 each by the House for dodging security scanners installed after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

The court’s decision comes months after justices snubbed the case of three other GOP members of Congress who had their pay docked in 2021 for flouting a mask mandate on the House floor during the COVID pandemic.

In the current case, Reps. Andrew Clyde, R-Georgia, Lloyd Smucker, R-Penn., and former Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas had asked the high court to intervene over the “massive fines” they incurred for ignoring magnetometers set up outside the House chamber after rioters assaulted the Capitol in a violent attempt at thwarting certification of President Joe Biden’s election.

The scanners were controversial at the time and the House rule to install them passed by a handful of votes. “It is beyond comprehension why any member would refuse to adhere to these simple, commonsense steps to keep this body safe,” Nancy Pelosi, then the House Speaker, said following the vote.

Two weeks after the Capitol attack, news outlets reported that Rep. Andy Harris, Republican of Maryland, had been turned away from the chamber after a scanner revealed he was carrying a concealed handgun.

Related: Mask mandates? Supreme Court rejects appeal from Marjorie Taylor Greene, GOP lawmakers

It was unclear when the incidents involving Clyde, Smucker and Gohmert took place. Gohmert said in February 2021 that he had briefly stepped off the House floor to use a washroom and wasn’t aware he needed to be scanned again before returning.

“At no time until yesterday did anyone mention the need to be wanded after entering the restroom directly in front of the guards,” he said. “Unlike in the movie The Godfather, there are no toilets with tanks where one could hide a gun, so my reentry onto the House floor should have been a non-issue.” Gohmert retired in 2022.

Clyde, Smucker and Gohmert refused to pay their fines after losing an appeal to the House ethics committee, and each saw their pay docked by $5,000. Members of Congress earn a base salary of $174,000.

The security-dodgers then sued the House sergeant at arms and the body’s chief administrator, arguing that the officials had violated the Constitution’s 27th Amendment by “varying” their congressionally mandated pay. They said the metal detectors and the payroll issue fell outside Congress’ legislative function − making them fair game for the federal courts despite the separation of powers at the heart of U.S. government.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, speaks during a June 14 press conference held with Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., outside the U.S. Capitol to announce the filing of a lawsuit challenging fines levied for violations of the new security screening policies for members of the House of Representatives to enter the House chamber.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, speaks during a June 14 press conference held with Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., outside the U.S. Capitol to announce the filing of a lawsuit challenging fines levied for violations of the new security screening policies for members of the House of Representatives to enter the House chamber.

More: Supreme Court rejects appeal from parents who lost custody of trans teen

Lawyers for the House officials replied that Congress’ work belongs only to Congress under the Constitution, and that elected representatives have their pay altered regularly for tax withholding and other matters.

A federal appeals panel held − just as it did in the masking case brought by Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, and two other Republicans − that the judiciary doesn’t have oversight of Congress.

On Monday, the high court affirmed that ruling by declining to take the metal detector case.

The metal detectors came down in 2023 after Republicans gained a majority in the House. But that didn’t settle the issue.

In February 2023, sparks flew at a meeting of the House Natural Resources Committee after Rep. Jared Huffman,(D-Calif.), asked for a rule to be reinstated barring guns from the committee room.

“I feel I need one everywhere here,” Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., reportedly said. “There are often times we are harassed in the hallways. We walk alone.” She added any gun she carried “not be an unloaded weapon.”

Capital Police and a spokeswoman for Rep. Harris didn’t respond to inquiries about the status of a reported investigation into his 2021 gun incident.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Supreme Court snubs Republicans who dodged House security after Jan. 6

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