On Monday, federal Judge Timothy Kelly dismissed a lawsuit from three Republican Congressmen, including Louie Gohmert (Texas), Andrew Clyde (Ga.), and Lloyd Smucker (Pa.), who were challenging the usage of magnetometers for security screening in the process of members entering the House floor.
Kelly concluded he lacked the appropriate jurisdiction to deal with the Congressmen’s claims. Key actions of the officers of the House targeted by the lawsuit were shielded from judicial interference by a portion of the U.S. Constitution called the Speech or Debate Clause, Kelly concluded. “Here, each challenged act of the House Officers qualifies as a legislative act,” the judge summarized. “Thus, the Speech or Debate Clause bars the Members’ claims.” The Constitutional clause he referenced outlines protections by which officials in Congress may “be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same.” (Certain potential offenses are excluded from these protections.) That portion of the Constitution adds that “for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.”
The security measures Gohmert and the others challenged were imposed after the deadly, Trump-incited attack on the Capitol, and all three Congressmen were fined thousands of dollars apiece after they evaded the measures. In a statement on the lawsuit from last year, Gohmert complained of “the unprecedented power grab by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi” — which just sounds ridiculous. They’re magnetometers, and going through security would no doubt require only a brief detour from the regular course of affairs. Pelosi wasn’t asking members to hand over their bank statements. Nonetheless, Gohmert cast the installation of magnetometers in dramatic terms, asserting alongside other arguments that “it is even more important that Members not be intentionally impeded from voting on behalf of the over 700,000 constituents we represent.” That’s obviously a melodramatic overstatement of the nature of the screening process. The idea there was some plot to “impede” Republicans from voting in the House is baloney.
Fines imposed on Gohmert and other Republicans appear to have been largely if not entirely set for collection through withholding the relevant levels of funds from affected members’ salaries. In the time since the riot, Gohmert’s consistently joined those essentially muddling the process of trying to uncover exactly what happened. “Today, we have requested all of the video footage from the Capitol Police and it’s worth fighting for because we NEED to know ALL the truth,” Gohmert said the other day. It’s not entirely clear what he thinks footage from Capitol Police on the day of the riot might reveal, although he’s referred to jailed rioters as “political prisoners” — so he seems intent on proving the nonsensical idea that there’s basically more to the story or some nefarious conspirator behind it all who’s not an obvious candidate for such a role. There remains no apparent real-world evidence of some conspiracy to unfairly penalize Capitol riot participants.