Capitol Hill reporters say they have been told to acquire new permissions before interviewing and filming senators in public areas of the United States Capitol or risk being removed and/or arrested by U.S. Capitol Police.
Reporters who want to interview a senator on camera must now apply for access to the senator.
All interviews in public areas must be cleared with the Senate Rules Committee, the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms and/or the Senate Radio and TV Gallery, depending where the interview is to take place, as well as the senator they hope to talk to.
The new policy covers televised interviews in hallways that are open to the public. Traditionally, press members gather in these areas to question senators about legislation or “stake out” committee hearings to ask questions of Senators as they leave.
The new rule, imposed without warning, places new restrictions on the press on the same day the President of the United States tweeted that media organizations have an “agenda of hate.”
New restrictions threaten to put even more distance between politicians and the outlets assigned to cover them. A number have publicly stated their disagreement with it, mostly Democrats. Some have tied the new restrictions to the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
So far, just Republican Senator Tim Scott has defended the rule, saying, apparently in complete seriousness, that it’s about identity theft.
The statement from the Sergeant at Arms says: “The Senate Sergeant at Arms is monitoring this situation and considering actions in these areas as a response to safety concerns […] Under their own determination, Senate officials may act to correct overcrowding situations in the Senate Subway area or in the Ohio Clock Corridor area.”
This statement addresses just two choke points traditionally used by members of the press in the Senate.
Today’s restrictions cover the entire building.