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Republicans Pass New Fines For Taking Pictures, Video On House Floor

House Democrats gathered to take photos on the floor right before Republicans voted to introduce new fines for just such actions.

Posted on January 3, 2017, at 8:24 p.m. ET

I'm on the House floor with @repjohnlewis & Dems staging a sit-in to demand action on commonsense gun legislation

WASHINGTON, DC — Republicans voted Tuesday to level fines for taking selfies or live video on the floor of the House of Representatives, while Democrats did exactly those things in defiance.

The new rules call for members to be fined $500 per offense of using their phones to take photos or video in a way that "impairs decorum," up to a maximum of $2,500.

While taking photos or recording videos on the floor has long been prohibited, the new rules and fines come in response to a gun control sit-in protest led by Democratic Rep. John Lewis, following the Orlando nightclub shooting.

Just before Tuesday's vote, Democrats gathered to pose as their colleagues took photos and live videos. As the presiding member called for order, Democrats waved copies of the Constitution, daring Republicans to fine them.

"I am not afraid of fines. I've been fined before. Many of us have been fined before," Lewis said.

Republicans have maintained the fines are about enforcing the rules of decorum and regular order in the House. The question now is whether Democrats will breach those rules again to try to force a fight. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also declared the rules "unconstitutional."

"If it is the determination of this body that the Sergeant At Arms can effectively silence the voice of Members on the Floor, deducting a penalty from their paycheck, which is totally unconstitutional, but I guess that doesn't matter to the devotees of the Constitution that what they're doing is unconstitutional – then how will the public know?"

Lewis declared the new fines a violation of the First Amendment.

"We should never, ever give up the right to protest but what is right, what is good, and what is necessary," he said.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.