Two far-right members of the House of Representatives were spotted blowing straight past a security checkpoint outside the House floor on Wednesday evening as they headed in to attend a surprise address to Congress from Ukraine’s president.
Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert were seen on the second floor of the Capitol building walking down a hallway outside of the House floor when they veered right towards the chamber. Before they were able to reach the door, two US Capitol Police officers in suits stopped the pair, addressing Mr Gaetz by name, and informed them that they needed to go through a security screening before entering, gesturing to a nearby metal detector.
The Florida congressman was heard briefly questioning the officer’s direction, before turning away.
“Mr Gaetz? Mr Gaetz?!” the officer said as the pair breezed past them and entered the chamber without further incident.
The incident lasted only a few seconds. Neither Mr Gaetz nor Ms Boebert became verbally aggressive or insulting, but made clear that they were ignoring the two Capitol Police agents after getting an unsatisfactory reply.
Ms Boebert’s office addressed the scene on Thursday in a pair of statements to the fact-checking website Snopes.
"This is not true. Congresswoman Boebert went through the metal detector,” declared a spokesperson in the first statement.
In a second statement two hours later, the Colorado Republican’s office clarified: "Apologies for the miscommunication. It unclear whether or not the Congresswoman went through the metal detector."
Ms Boebert’s explanation that she had previously gone through a metal detector is plausible, given that she and Mr Gaetz were spotted walking to the door of the House floor from the direction of a nearby hallway together (rather than coming from the entrance by the checkpoint). But neither of the statements from her office explain why she ignored the commands of two Capitol Police officers who stopped her and confirmed to The Independent afterwards that they had asked the pair to go through the nearby checkpoint.
While the two are members of Congress and therefore have permission to enter areas of Capitol Hill where visitors and members of the press are naturally restricted from accessing, all members of the House and Senate no matter their seniority must adhere to security guidelines put in place by the House and Senate Sergeants at Arms.
Violations of those rules are governed and punished by the House Ethics Committee, which is set to change into Republican hands in the coming days.
In the past, the panel has not hesitated to enforce security rules and punish members who violate them. In May of last year, Congresswoman Virginia Foxx of North Carolina was fined $5,000 for going through a checkpoint too quickly and refusing a proper screening in a similar manner.
Metal detectors and their related security procedures were put in place a week after the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.
At the time, the House Ethics Committee was empowered to enforce the new procedure. Two other Republican members, Andrew Clyde of Georgia and Louie Gohmert of Texas, have also been fined for violating the rules.
The fines are deducted directly from their congressional salaries upon the committee’s ruling that the procedure has been violated, making dodging payment impossible.
As far-right conservatives aligned with the Trump wing of the GOP, the two are thought to be some of the most opposed to further aid to Ukraine, a key point of Mr Zelensky’s speech to Congress tonight.
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