The U.S. Senate reportedly broke precedent this morning, by putting a policy in place that bars reporters from filming interviews in the hallways of the Capitol. Previously, reporters covering the House and Senate had free-reign to interview lawmakers in the hallways as they pleased.
Abandoning previous precedent completely, reporters must now request access to an interview with senators via the lawmaker’s office and the Senate Rules Committee.
The implementation of this policy lead to an outrage by the media and Democratic lawmakers, both of who suggest that the new rule has to do with “back door meetings,” regarding the Republican health care bill.
.@SenateGOP are trying to hide their monstrous #Trumpcare bill. And now they're blocking reporters from uncovering the truth. Shame.
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) June 13, 2017
Capitol Hill Republican lawmakers have refuted this claim. The chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), says that no rules were altered.
Statement from Sen Richard Shelby R-AL indicates no change in TV coverage rules pic.twitter.com/qekxYVuiIY
— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) June 13, 2017
The new precedent is derived from a letter sent to the bureau chiefs and editors from the Senate Media Gallery officials, which they penned to make the chiefs aware of the current overcrowding problem in the Capitol, particularly in the areas of the Senate subway and Ohio Clock corridor. The increase in reporters looking for breaking news and attempting to interview lawmakers before they vote on bills comes with the divisive state of affairs on Capitol Hill under the Trump administration.
“We understand the increased demand for reporting at the Senate. However, we are concerned about everyone’s safety. Collectively, the press following Senators have become large and aggressive. We are concerned someone may get hurt,” the letter said.
Letters regarding different issues, not necessarily overcrowding, have been sent previously. In 2001, under former president George W. Bush, Senate Democrats attempted to have photographers and print journalists banned from the chamber.
It is unclear whether or not this policy will be upheld, but the motivation seems to be the overcrowding of the Capitol.