House Members Could Take Paycheck Hit of Up to $10,000 if They Ignore New Security Measures

U.S. House members who flout new security measures implemented at the Capitol in the wake of the January 6 riots now face hefty fines that could come directly out of their paychecks.

U.S. Representative Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the House Rules Committee, told Newsweek the change comes from a growing distrust among members and increased safety concerns after supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol to disrupt the certification of President Joe Biden's election.

"There's a lot of unease among some of our members in light of the terrible thing that happened January 6," McGovern said.

In the days after the riots, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had new metal detectors installed at the members' entrance to the chamber. But reports immediately emerged of members walking past them, setting them off but refusing to stop or arguing with Capitol Police about them.

McGovern said those reports are what ultimately prompted the fines.

"We've had a rule in place for over 50 years that says you can't bring guns on the House floor and certain other areas of the Capitol. To my knowledge we've never before had a problem with it until recently," McGovern said. "I feel we had no other choice—they think just because they are members of Congress, they can do whatever the hell they want to do."

The new fines—$5,000 for a first violation and $10,000 for any others—were adopted on a near party-line vote this week, with most Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed to the proposal, which was tucked into a larger measure to expedite the passage of COVID-19 relief package that Biden's pushing as a top priority.

Members can't use campaign cash or their office accounts to pay fines.

If members don't pay up within 90 days, the money will come directly from their Capitol pay, so they won't be able to ignore the new penalties if they decide to ignore the metal detectors. CNN reported late Friday afternoon that Republican Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Andrew Clyde of Georgia had already received notice that they've been fined under the new rule.

Clyde and Gohmert's offices didn't respond to Newsweek's request for comment.

Earlier in the day, McGovern told Newsweek he had been watching for culprits but he hadn't seen any or heard of any violations at the time.

"I think people have been lining up politely and following the rules," McGovern said. "It's sad we had to do it, but I felt we had no choice."

His office didn't immediately respond to a follow-up question about the reports of Clyde and Gohmert's possible penalties.

The acting House sergeant at arms, who is ultimately tasked with enforcing the rule, didn't respond to Newsweek's request for comment, and a spokesman for the bipartisan Ethics Committee, where members can appeal the fines, would not comment when reached by Newsweek.

The House agreed to a similar proposal last month, opting to fine members who don't wear masks on the House floor amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Those penalties—$500 for a first offense and $2,500 for subsequent ones—also can be taken from member pay.

Rank-and-file House members are paid $174,000 a year. Those in leadership positions make more.

The idea to garnish wages if members won't pay the fines on their own came from a Republican tactic several years ago, McGovern said.

In June 2016 when Democrats were in the minority, the late Congressman John Lewis led a day-long Democrat sit-in on the House floor in protest of gun violence. The protest was not broadcast on the House livestream because the chamber had not formally gaveled in. Members responded by livestreaming and posting photos from their phones onto social media.

Months later, the GOP leadership passed a new fine, taken from members' paychecks, if they share photos or video from the House floor.

"They set the precedent here," McGovern said, though he added he doesn't think photography should be a finable offense.

Capitol security
U.S. Capitol Police install a metal detector outside the House of Representatives Chamber on January 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty