By Arjun Singh
The U.S. Capitol is set to become more accessible to the public in January after Republicans take control of the House of Representatives, said House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy.
Over the 117th Congress, much of the Capitol, particularly the House of Representatives, remained inaccessible to members of the public. The galleries of both chambers, as well as access to offices and public tour spots like the rotunda, were closed due to COVID-19, while security measures, such as non-scalable fencing, which was later removed, were put in place after Jan. 6, 2021 to further limited access, according to Politico.
Opening the Capitol to the public would be “one of the first orders of business,” McCarthy wrote on Twitter. Members of the public may gain access to the galleries through normal procedures as well as obtain tickets from members, a measure that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suspended following the storming of the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021.
McCarthy additionally stated that every morning of the House’s proceedings would begin with a prayer as well as the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag, a departure from their intermittent practice under Democrats, according to a post on Facebook. “No exceptions,” he wrote, in relation to the announced measure.
McCarthy is also likely to rescind a controversial decision to place metal detectors outside the House chamber doors, with all members required to pass through them and those who refuse being fined beginning Jan. 12, 2021, per CNN. The Senate does not have such a requirement.
Pelosi introduced the measure after claiming that “the enemy is within the House of Representatives,” referring to several GOP lawmakers’ support for the Second Amendment and opposition to the results of the 2020 election, a statement in a 2021 press conference that provoked significant criticism from Republicans. McCarthy has expressed opposition to the measure as well as the fines imposed, which are $5,000 per offense and are deducted from members’ pay.
Republican Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Andrew Clyde of Georgia have sued the House for their fines of $5,000 and $15,000, respectively, arguing that the measure violates the U.S. Constitution’s 27th Amendment, which prohibits “laws varying the compensation of Senators and Representatives” from taking effect until an election occurs.
Pelosi herself was criticized for once failing to pass through a metal detector as she enters and exits the House, despite ordering that members be fined $5,000 for every failure to do so, per the New York Post.
McCarthy’s changes have been announced in addition to statements he will remove several Democrats from top standing committees, following House Democrats’ vote to strip Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia of her committee assignments in 2021. The Democrats to be removed are Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell of California from the Intelligence Committee and Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Omar has previously faced criticism for her commentary on Israel, which Republicans and some Democrats have called anti-Semitic, while Eric Swalwell has been criticized for links to a female Chinese intelligence operative in the United States, named Fang Fang, with whom he is alleged to have had a sexual relationship, per Fox News.
McCarthy’s office and the House Democratic Caucus did not immediately respond to a request for comment.