Well, nothing to worry about here, probably. The Republicans in the Senate briefly restricted press access on the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol with no good reason, then just as quickly backed off the idea after the backlash they certainly couldn’t have seen coming. Can’t imagine why they might have put that rule change in place at a moment when Republican senators are working on their completely secret Obamacare repeal, which they intend to cram through with no hearings or amendments. For a few brief shining hours of what looked like a flirtation with autocracy, here were the New Rules:
Reporters were told they would no longer be allowed to film or record audio of interviews in the Senate side hallways of the Capitol without special permission.
Television reporters will now need permission from senators, the Senate Rules Committee, the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms or the Senate Radio and TV Gallery, depending on location, before conducting an on-camera interview with a senator anywhere in the Capitol or in the Senate office buildings, according to a Senate official familiar with the matter.
NBC congressional reporter Kasie Hunt broke the news this morning; her Twitter feed has been very, very busy today:
The Hill reports the decision to restrict press access was made unilaterally by Senate Rules Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican. While the the Senate was at it, it also issued new rules restricting all reporters’ access — from all media — in the Senate’s basement levels, where it’s often easiest for reporters to find lawmakers between votes of at lunch meetings.
Gosh, this isn’t disturbing at all, is it? Needless to say, Senate Republicans took the restrictions on the press in public areas of a government building (isn’t there some law mentioning that stuff?) with all the seriousness you’d expect. Politico reporter Burgess Everett got this steadfast defense of the First Amendment from Lindsey Graham:
Buzzfeed’s Capitol Hill correspondent heard from South Carolina’s Sen. Tim Scott: