The lawmakers, Representatives Louie Gohmert of Texas and Andrew Clyde of Georgia, appear to be the first members punished under a new rule approved by the House on Tuesday night.
Spokespeople for Gohmert and Clyde did not respond to requests for comment, but Gohmert issued a statement Friday night, explaining that he had stepped out to use the restroom and did not know that he needed to be rescreened on his way back in.
’’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 said in the statement.
According to the new rules, lawmakers who bypass the metal detectors that have been installed outside some doors to the House chamber will be fined $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for each subsequent offense.
Gohmert called the policy ’’unconstitutional’’ and vowed to appeal the fine, citing a portion of the Constitution known as the Speech and Debate Clause that provides lawmakers immunity from arrest for things they say or do during a speech or debate in Congress. The clause is specifically designed to protect the legislative branch from interference by the president or executive branch agencies, and to insulate members from lawsuits and prosecutions based on actions carried out as part of their official duties. It is unclear what if any bearing it would have on Capitol security policies adopted by members themselves.
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