'Secrecy veil': Reporters told no more Senate hallway interviews

Jackie Newman
June 14, 2017

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is surrounded by reporters as he leaves a briefing of the full Senate by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, amid controversy over President Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey, at the Capitol, Thursday, May 18, 2017, in Washington.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, the ranking member on the Rules Committee, expressed outrage, but suggested not much was being changed. "Senate Office Building corridors for interviews with Members - approval of the Member and the Senate Rules Committee through the Senate Gallery required".

And confusion has set off a firestorm in the Capitol. This is no time for limiting press access in the U.S. Senate - with Russian Federation hearings, Attorney General (Jeff) Sessions testifying, and what appears to be the secretive drafting of a healthcare bill.

"We were not consulted on this and like many senators have been left in the dark", Jason Dick, leadership editor at Roll Call and a member of the standing committee of correspondents for the Periodical Press Gallery on Capitol Hill, told Mic in an interview. In recent weeks, Senate staffers have sought to impose some controls, placing velvet ropes up to keep reporters from blocking the route to the Senate underground trolley.

"Then I talked to Senator Shelby, who is the chairman of the Rules Committee". In a statement, Klobuchar said she called on Republicans "to allow reporters to do their jobs".

The directive does come amid safety concerns due to overcrowding by reporters in the Senate hallways, but Democrats quickly attributed the decision to Senate Republicans' work on the health care bill. "I've got no news for you", a staffer at the gallery told The Post.

"The Rules Committee has made no changes to the existing rules governing press coverage on the Senate side of the Capitol complex", said Shelby. "He said he wouldn't move forward on change to press access without consulting me and we must hold him to it".

The staff said the restrictions were because the number of reporters has swelled due to negotiations on healthcare legislation and high-profile hearings.

Bloomberg News' Kevin Cirilli tweeted that he was told he couldn't "stand outside of the Budget Committee hearing room to interview lawmakers".

Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, tweeted: "Press access should never be restricted unfairly, particularly not when one party is trying to sneak a major bill through Congress". The earliest reports claimed that the decision was unilaterally made by SRC chair Richard Shelby (R-AL). "More important than ever as Senators try to push through secret bills".

This is apparently a reference to when Republican Sen. Maybe you can tell them there's a draft of the health-care bill inside.

"Huh?" she tweeted in response to NBC reporter Kasie Hunt's tweet exposing the rules change.

Other reports by AllAboutTopnews

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