The Senate Rules Committee on Tuesday reversed an earlier restriction for journalists to conduct hallway interviews with senators.
“You may continue to follow the rules as if it was yesterday,” according to NBC News’ Kasie Hunt.
Earlier in the day, journalists were told that they cannot “film interviews with senators in hallways, contrary to years of precedent,” according to Hunt. They now have to get permission from both the senator and the Senate Rules Committee, she said.
Political reporters and several senators responded by protesting the sudden shift in rules for access to senators, just as Republicans are trying to pass an Obamacare replacement bill.
Tweet: ALERT: Reporters at Capitol have been told they are not allow to film interviews with senators in hallways, contrary to years of precedent
Tweet 2: CONDITIONS for any interview: Previously granted permission from senator AND Rules Committee of Senate
GOP Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama denied that any “change” took place and said the committee wanted to enforce “existing rules” in order to provide a “safe environment” for senators and reporters.
That came after some journalists said the rule change was already being enforced, according to Politico.
Reporters said the move could reduce the information that gets out to Americans about their elected representatives.
Several senators criticized the change shortly after reporters began tweeting about it. Democrats also noted that it came as GOP senators carry out what has been called a secretive process to pass a bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, which comes after a House-passed health-care bill fueled considerable public opposition.
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota called on Republicans to “allow reporting in the Capitol to proceed as usual.”
Tweet: As ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee I call on the majority to allow reporting in the Capitol to proceed as usual.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted that “press access should never be restricted unfairly, particularly not when one party is trying to sneak a major bill through Congress.”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said journalists are “pretty down on the list” of problems in the U.S., according to a Politico reporter.
Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri also suggested that the change had to do with the health-care bill.
McCaskill: Huh? Maybe worried you will catch the group of guys writing health care bill in back room somewhere.