2 U.S. House members sue over use of metal detectors

ATLANTA — Congressmen from Georgia and Texas have filed a federal lawsuit claiming that using metal detectors to screen members of Congress is unconstitutional and that the security measure is being used unfairly against Republicans.

Reps. Andrew Clyde of Georgia and Louie Gohmert of Texas filed the lawsuit Sunday in federal court in Washington D.C., against House Sergeant at Arms William Walker and House Chief Administrative Officer Catherine Szpindor.

Clyde, a gun dealer and first-term member from northeast Georgia, has been fined twice for going around the metal detector, including $5,000 after a Feb. 3 violation and $10,000 after a Feb. 5 violation. On that second occasion, Clyde said he went around the metal detector because he was running out of time to vote on the floor. Clyde said he missed another vote on April 14 because he was stuck in line for the metal detector.

Gohmert said he was fined following a Feb. 4 incident during which he left the floor to use the bathroom and refused to be screened a second time, saying that on previous occasions he was not required to be screened. Gohmert is in his ninth term representing an east Texas district.

Walker did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Clyde and Gohmert said Democrats have been allowed to enter the floor without being screened, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Feb. 4.

“Speaker Pelosi has instituted an unconstitutional policy of enforcing the screening rule against only members of the Republican minority in the House of Representatives, and exempting members of the Democratic majority from its enforcement, resulting in only Republican members being fined and having their congressional salaries reduced, all for the purpose of creating a false narrative for the political benefit of the Democratic majority,” the lawsuit alleges.

This claim ignores the House Ethics Committee’s $5,000 fine against the House’s 3rd-ranking Democrat, Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, who was caught entering the chamber without being screened in April.

The House voted to mandate metal detectors after rioters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. Some Republicans said thereafter that they carried weapons in Washington, and Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., set off a metal detector when he tried to enter the chamber with a concealed handgun late January. Guns are banned in U.S. Capitol, but lawmakers aren’t screened at the perimeter of the complex and can bring unloaded guns to their offices.

The suit claims the fines, which are deducted from their salaries if members don’t pay them voluntarily, violate the 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which bans changes to congressional salaries until after an ensuing election. It also says the security measure violates the Constitution because refusing to go through a metal detector is not “disorderly conduct” for which a member can be punished, and because members can’t be arrested except for “treason, felony and breach of the peace.”

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.

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