As Republicans in the Senate race to draft and vote on a healthcare bill they have no intention of sharing with the public, the Senate has changed long-standing rules that will make it extremely difficult for the press to interview senators in the hallways of the Capitol building.
Reporters were told Tuesday by staff members of the Senate Radio and Television Correspondents Gallery that they could no longer film interviews with senators in the hallways outside their offices without prior permission from the senator and the Senate Rules Committee, breaking with tradition. The Hill notes that depending on the location of the interaction, the the Senate sergeant-at-arms’ permission would be required.
It certainly sounds a lot like the Senate is trying to operate in secrecy:
Reached by phone, a representative for the Senate Radio and Television Correspondents Gallery said she could not comment on the directive and referred CNNMoney to the Senate Rules Committee. When asked for her name, she said “I’m not going to give you that” and hung up.
The Senate Rules Committee eventually released a statement saying that “no additional restrictions have been put in place,” which some took to mean that the committee was enforcing an already existing rule that had not been enforced previously. Yet a Senate Democratic aid told The Hill that the decision had been made unilaterally by Senate Rules Committee chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).
Democrats in the Senate were shocked by the change were quick to criticize it with Oregon’s Ron Wymen going so far as to say it was done because of the closed-door health care negotiations. “They trying to to keep senators from being held accountable with regard to health care policy. And I think it runs contrary to the transparency and openness to the American people,” Senator Wymen said.
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi was even more forceful about the issue. She tweeted, “.@SenateGOP are trying to hide their monstrous #Trumpcare bill.” And now they’re blocking reporters from uncovering the truth. Shame.”