News & Politics

Senators from Both Parties Criticize Access Rules for Press During Impeachment

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks to reporters about the possibility of a partial government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

In a rare moment of bi-partisan agreement, rules that give access to the press during the impeachment trial have come under fire from Senators from both parties.

The rules, drawn up by the Senate sergeant-at-arms and U.S. Capitol Police are designed to prevent the impeachment trial from turning into a media free for all. But many Senators find the rules too restrictive. Besides, how many Senators really want to limit their exposure to the press in the first place?


Among the potential restrictions, according to a letter sent to Senate leadership from the Standing Committee of Correspondents, are confining reporters to a press pen on the second floor of the Capitol and limiting their ability to walk with senators from the Senate subways.

“Finally, we’re being protected from the overbearing press,” deadpanned Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who said he’d heard there would be a 15 minute delay from adjournment before questions could be asked.

The reason for the restrictions are obvious. Remember the Kavanaugh confirmation? It wasn’t just the press badgering Senators, it was crazy activists getting in their faces and screaming at them.

The press restrictions come after the 2018 confirmationhearing of Kavanaugh, during which the chamber was flooded with protesters following allegations that he sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford when they were teenagers. Then-Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) was famously confronted by two female protesters on the way to a key vote on Kavanaugh.

Senate Rules Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) acknowledged Tuesday that he’s more worried about protesters in the aftermath of the Kavanaugh hearings.

“I’m concerned about that,” Blunt said. “The ability of members to move to this important responsibility without having to fight their way onto an elevator or fight their way between people who come between them in the [Senate] buildings, that’s my concern.”

Some Senators echoed the sentiments of GOP Senator John Kennedy.

“It’s a huge mistake,” Kennedy said. “U.S. senators are grown women and grown men. If they don’t want to make a comment, they know how to say ‘no comment.’ … We aren’t children.”

Well, that’s debatable. Anything that would keep a Senator from the press during this historic event won’t be tolerated. The trial could turn into a 3 ring circus and Senators would still find a way to get noticed.

The trial is going to be a media event anyway and besides, the rules won’t restrict the access of legitimate press.

When asked about the criticism of the restrictions, Blunt said Wednesday they would occur only twice a day — likely when senators are coming and going from the hearing. Aside from a certain window of time, he said, “if you’re credentialed press you’ll have the same kind of access in the building you always have, which is pretty mutually beneficial.”

I imagine the Capitol Police might be a little nervous about so many VIP’s walking through the halls exposed to the maniacs. But you can’t cut off press access to lawmakers simply because the unhinged will have access too. The politicians should accept that a lot of people on both sides are angry and frustrated while the media will have their own agenda.

No need to guess what that agenda will be.