In an unprecedented restriction of media access, reporters are no longer allowed to video or audio record interviews with Senators in the Senate side hallways of the Capitol without permission, officials informed the media Tuesday.
There are four bodies, other than the Senator himself, that could grant a reporter permission to record an interview: the Senate Rules Committee, the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms or the Senate Radio and TV Gallery. Without their approval reporters cannot conduct an interview with a Senator anywhere in the Capitol or Senate office buildings.
Unsurprisingly, the restrictions were greeted with an uproar from top media officials.
“Senate Rules Committee and @SenateSAA trying to SHUT DOWN press access in halls. No more staking out hearings without permission. Not OK,” Manu Raju, CNN’s senior congressional reporter, said in a tweet.
The move follows from an emergency meeting between the press gallery directors and the Senate rules committee Tuesday, after criticism in recent weeks for not holding public hearings on their ObamaCare repeal legislation. The result was to restrict access further.
Holding the majority, the move has been attributed to Senate Republicans, and Senate Democrats are taking the opportunity to gain some political brownie points.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said he doesn’t need protection from the media, tweeting, “Maybe not the right moment to lower the secrecy veil on Congress. To whoever is trying to protect Senators – we can fend for ourselves.”
Lindsay Graham (R-SC), generally one of the most accessible Senators, has more important things to worry about.
“I want you to have access to us, inform your readers, inform your viewers what we’re trying to do,” said Graham, “But, of all the problems in America, y’all are pretty down on the chain.”
Nonetheless, the floodgates have opened on Twitter.
ALERT: Reporters at Capitol have been told they are not allow to film interviews with senators in hallways, contrary to years of precedent
— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) June 13, 2017
CONDITIONS for any interview: Previously granted permission from senator AND Rules Committee of Senate
— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) June 13, 2017
Maybe not the right moment to lower the secrecy veil on Congress. To whoever is trying to protect Senators – we can fend for ourselves. https://t.co/YSbTuaIZKV
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) June 13, 2017
Can’t help but notice this comes as Congress is crafting major legislation behind closed doors without the usual public process there either https://t.co/XutcMJPLj4
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) June 13, 2017
This is how Republicans govern when they don’t want to be asked questions about their secret healthcare bill, or about the president. https://t.co/l4aw4TcE1k
— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) June 13, 2017
Have these people read the Constitution? https://t.co/ojpVPeY5hn
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) June 13, 2017
We live in a time when technology could make government more transparent, thus trusted. But we’re led by the terminally opaque. https://t.co/xYG6mdsNU2
— Ron Fournier (@ron_fournier) June 13, 2017
This is a stunning change of precedent. https://t.co/AJ04NOUmjb
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) June 13, 2017
Senate Rules Committee and @SenateSAA trying to SHUT DOWN press access in halls. No more staking out hearings without permission. Not OK.
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) June 13, 2017
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