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The House GOP's plan for disciplining lawmakers following John Lewis's gun sit-in

GOP leaders are looking to slap members of the House with fines and other penalties if they disrupt proceedings on the floor, a belated response to the sit-in led by Atlanta Democrat John Lewis earlier this year.

Under the proposed changes to the chamber's rules being floated by Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., lawmakers would have their wages garnished by $500 for taking pictures, recording audio or video or streaming video on the House floor. Members would face a $2,500 wage garnishment for each additional offense.

The proposed changes, first reported by Bloomberg, also spell out what constitutes disorderly behavior on the floor, which the publication said could lead to potential referrals to the House Ethics Committee and sanctions against offending members.

GOP leaders have been under pressure to punish Democrats, including Lewis, for taking over House floor proceedings for nearly 26 hours in June to protest the lack of a vote on gun violence legislation. After Republicans declared a recess and shut off C-SPAN's cameras, Democrats began live-streaming their colleagues' speeches on social media, which gave their effort considerable attention.

Democrats were ultimately unsuccessful in their quest to compel Republican leaders to agree to votes on a pair of proposals to expand background checks for firearms and bar those on the terror watch list from buying guns. The GOP-led Senate rejected similar proposals earlier this year.

Ryan previously called the episode a “stunt,” citing a similar measure that was voted down in a key House committee in the days preceding the sit-in. He also pointed out an effort by the Democratic Party to fundraise off the events on the House floor.

The GOP's tweaks to the House rules would apply to future breaches of decorum and not the June sit-in.

We've reached out to Lewis' folks to see what they have to say about the proposed rules changes, but the longtime Atlanta congressman was unmoved by similar threats of discipline in the past.

“I’ve been punished on other occasions,” Lewis said in an interview in September. “And it makes it stronger.”

Other Democrats were defiant.

A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., compared House Republicans to "handmaidens of the gun lobby."

“Speaker Ryan can continue to shamefully ignore the calls for action from the American people but House Democrats will never stop speaking out against the daily tragedy of gun violence in this country,” Drew Hammill said in a statement.

Others took to social media:

Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said the proposed changes "will help ensure that order and decorum are preserved in the House of Representatives so lawmakers can do the people’s work."

House lawmakers will vote on the chamber's rules for the new session shortly after the new Congress convenes on Jan. 3.

One thing worth noting about the proposed fines is that they come in the form of wage garnishment. Presumably, that’s intended to prevent acts of protests from becoming GoFundMe causes.

Insider's note: This post was ripped and expanded from this morning's Daily Jolt, which you can find here

More coverage of Lewis and Democrats' sit-in: 

John Lewis shrugs as GOP promises punishment for sit-in

Republican leaders to ding Democrats over gun sit-in led by John Lewis

John Lewis and other Democrats face ethics complaint over sit-in

Democratic sit-in ends with no House votes promised on gun bills

‘Reliving my life’: John Lewis’ experience at heart of Capitol sit-in


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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.