WASHINGTON – Nancy Pelosi thinks she knows how to square the circle of two competing factions in one very, very large American issue.
In June, Democratic lawmakers held a sit-in on the House floor to protest the Republican majority’s inaction on gun safety legislation. The event was widely publicized largely because lawmakers used their cell phones to stream it live online, a violation of House rules. Ever since, Speaker Paul Ryan has made clear that the activists who held the floor for more than 24 hours would face sanctions for the rules violation, most likely a fine.
As the new congress began, Republicans sought to strengthen the prohibition on members taking photos or videos from the House floor. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, never one to shy from a loud battle with her GOP colleagues, introduced a competing measure that, she said, would bring together various threads of the gun violence debate in a crystal clear form.
“We should all be wearing bodycams,” she said in a floor speech introducing the ‘Bodycams for Legislators’ measure. “We should all be walking livestreams of the people’s business, so the people can watch us work on their behalf.” Police departments around the country have invested heavily in wearable body camera technology over the last few years in an attempt to calm communities after a rash of high-profile shootings of unarmed civilians, often African-American.
Georgia’s Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon who helped spearhead the sit-in, said that he was strongly in favor of Pelosi’s proposal. “Why shouldn’t the American people watch us work?” he asked. “They pay our salaries, they pay for this building, they pay for our chairs. Why can’t they log in and see whether we’re at work, like we’re supposed to be, or if our feed is empty because we’re off being entertained by lobbyists? Give the people the power.”
Experts said the idea was novel, but unlikely to be implemented. “You can imagine what happens the first time one of these people goes to the restroom and forgets to turn off their bodycam,” said a congressional staffer who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Even if they did enact it, the ‘House Public Pooping Rule’ would be gone that day.”
Pelosi herself was unavailable for comment at press time.
(Photo: Nancy Pelosi on Flickr)