The Senate Rules Committee reportedly moved Tuesday to change its enforcement of the Senate’s rules on press access, according to NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent Kasie Hunt:
According to Hunt and tweets from other Hill reporters, journalists seeking hallway interviews with senators were told to seek permission from both the senators in question and the Senate Rules Committee’s chief counsel, an obviously burdensome requirement. A number of Democratic senators have tweeted objections to the change, including Rules Committee ranking member Amy Klobuchar, who called for a reversal:
Amid the outcry, Rules Committee Chairman Richard Shelby released a statement clarifying that no actual changes to the rules on press access had been made. “The Committee has been working with the various [press] galleries to ensure compliance with existing rules,” it read. Hunt says that the changes to the enforcement of the rules nevertheless contradict long-standing norms on the Hill:
Klobuchar has told reporters that Shelby assured her that changes wouldn’t have been implemented without consulting her and that enforcement had been altered as the result of a “staff inquiry.”
The change comes as Republican talks on their health care bill, which could jeopardize insurance coverage for millions of Americans, seem to be moving forward behind closed doors—no public hearings on it have been held, and the legislation has reportedly been sent directly to the Congressional Budget Office. Senate GOP aides have been telling reporters that there are no plans to make the bill available to the public. “We aren’t stupid,” one told Axios’ Caitlin Owens.
Update June 13, 6:54 PM: Sen. Shelby told reporters this afternoon that the changes had been reversed. From the Hill:
Shelby told The Hill that his committee staff had acted without his knowledge after receiving complaints from other senators who sometimes feel hounded by reporters.
He instructed them to “stand down” and drop efforts to limit reporters’ activities.
“I know some of the staff talked to the people in the gallery and I think the Rules Committee talked to the Sergeant at Arms, not me,” Shelby said. “When I found out about it, I said stand down.”
“We’re not going to change any rules, not unless we hold committee hearings,” he added.
Shelby said he hopes no additional restrictions will be placed on reporters, noting, “We all benefit from you, as long as you act civil.”