Richard Shelby; Chris Dodd (Getty/Win McNamee)

Senate Republicans attempt to bar reporters from conducting interviews in hallways of Congress

Senate Republicans, facing tough questions about their health care bill, want to stop reporters from asking them


Matthew Rozsa
June 13, 2017 6:40PM (UTC)

As Senate Republicans continue to hammer out their own version of the American Health Care Act in secret, some reporters are claiming that a new rule on media access is unexpectedly restricting their ability to ask tough questions of legislators as they make decisions that will affect millions of people.

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According to recent tweets by Kasie Hunt of NBC News, reporters were not allowed on Tuesday to film interviews with senators in the Capitol Building's hallways. Similarly, they were only allowed to conduct interviews after receiving permission from both the senator in question and the Senate Rules Committee.

In response to complaints from reporters, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, issued a statement saying, "The Rules Committee has made no changes to the existing rules governing press coverage on the Senate side of the Capitol complex."

He added, "The Committee has been working with the various galleries to ensure compliance with existing rules in an effort to help provide a safe environment for Members of Congress, the press corps, staff, and constituents as they travel from Senate offices to the Capitol. Once again, no additional restrictions have been put in place by the Rules Committee."

That said, a reporter from BuzzFeed heard an initial answer from Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina that seemed like a terrible justification for treating reporters in a different way.

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Yet Frank Thorp of NBC tweeted that he was under the impression that reporters are indeed facing new parameters for doing their work and they seem to be impractical.

Christina Wilkie of the Huffington Post and Benjy Sarlin of NBC News both have noticed that the new practices coincided with the Senate Republicans' tense deliberations about their new health care bill.

Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., concurred with this observation.

One of Wyden's Democratic colleagues, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, was nothing short of contemptuous in a tweet about the new practices.

The apparent changes have caught some Republicans by surprise. Texas' Sen. Ted Cruz said he was unaware of the updated practice until he learned about it from media reports. The same was true for Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat.

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Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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