False start

Washington Republicans are looking out for themselves, first day of session shows

On Tuesday, the 115th Congress voted to adopt a package of rules for the new session. As expected, the panel voted along party lines. That includes 1st District Rep. Doug LaMalfa voting yea as minority Democrats decried a provision calling for fines for members who use electronic devices to take videos or photos on the House floor.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it harks back to–and is a direct result of—Democrats’ day-long sit-in last June in protest of the House’s failure to take up the issue of gun control following a mass shooting in Orlando. The politicians violated longstanding rules by filming on the House floor during the day-long protest. That move came after Republicans virtually ignored the tragic events at the gay nightclub.

As the CN&R reported at the time, on the day after that deadly attack, LaMalfa took to the lectern in the House chamber to defend a Tehama County farmer accused of environmental crimes. In other words, a little more than 24 hours after the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, our representative was back to business as usual. No mention of the tragedy that just ended the lives of 49 fellow Americans, no condolences to their families or friends. It’s as though the massacre at the Pulse nightclub had not taken place.

In response to the Democrats’ demonstration, the GOP’s rules for this session call for a fine of up to $2,500 for each violation of the no-filming rule. Originally, Republicans also sought to dismantle the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent watchdog. They changed course after broad outcry that included everyone from constituents to President-elect Donald Trump, who questioned the majority’s priorities.

So there you have it: The GOP’s agenda this session includes quashing dissent and making it harder to ferret out corruption. What a way to start the new year.