Category Archives: Constitutional law first amendment video House Rule XI

A Rather Minor Matter — of US House of Representatives Rule XI, Section 4(b)

This is a relatively minor matter, so it goes into the Friday throw-away/throw-down folder. And it is Friday, right? Right. So, let’s “throw-it-down,” now.

It is a minor matter, as I am aware of no effort, ever, to actually attempt to enforce this particular rule. And that is a wise choice — as, in the past, I have pointed this out [as to an earlier version of these same internal US House rules], and no one has ever suggested that the below-legal/policy-analysis is, in any appreciable way, incorrect.

A few obvious points of departure, then: First, we (the taxpayers) pay for the video feeds from each Congressional Hearing Room in Washington, D.C. Trust me on this — we paid to have the original cameras installed. It costs only a small amount to turn them on each morning, and turn them off at night, but we — the same “we” in “we, the people,” fund that effort [And I do love the effort — especially the tech-savvy staffers’ ability to very-quickly get hearing archives uploded into internet-editable video-streams!].

Second, our First Amendment reads “Congress shall make no law. . .” “abridging. . .” [among other matters] “freedom of speech. . .” — and that freedom of speech has long-held to most-strongly protect political speech.

Third, Congressional hearings invariably cover inherently political speech. Commentary on, or transmission, or re-broadcast, or web-cast, or narrow-cast, or pod-cast, or flash-animation distributed over YouTube, or similar means, of. . . such speech is thus, itself, inherently political speech.

Once again — “Congress shall make no law. . .” — consider that well, as you now read the above-refereced rule:

Rule XI, Section 4(b):

“. . .In addition, it is the intent of this clause that radio and television tapes and television film of any coverage under this clause may not be used, or made available for use, as partisan political campaign material to promote or oppose the candidacy of any person for elective public office.

4(c) It is, further, the intent of this clause that the general conduct of each meeting (whether of a hearing or otherwise) covered under authority of this clause by audio or visual means, and the personal behavior of the committee members and staff, other Government officials and personnel, witnesses, television, radio, and press media personnel, and the general public at the hearing or other meeting, shall be in strict conformity with and observance of the acceptable standards of dignity, propriety, courtesy, and decorum traditionally observed by the House in its operations, and may not be such as to —

(1) distort the objects and purposes of the hearing or other meeting or the activities of committee members in connection with that hearing or meeting or in connection with the general work of the committee or of the House; or

(2) cast discredit or dishonor on the House, the committee, or a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner or bring the House, the committee, or a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner into disrepute.

4(d) The coverage of committee hearings and meetings by audio and visual means shall be permitted and conducted only in strict conformity with the purposes, provisions, and requirements of this clause. . . .”

[Emphasis supplied.]

Rules of the US House of Representatives,
effective as of March 11, 2008
(See page 16 of that PDF File).

Note that this rule is arguably unconstitutional, on its face, and simply must be unconstitutional — as applied — to the extent that the House, or any Member, would use it to try to prohibit (or, in the words of applicable First Amendment jurisprudence, exact a “prior restraint” upon) the dissemination of videos, such as this, or this.

Statements made in public, during on-the-record Hearings before Congress, after being sworn under oath, or as to a Member, while conducting similarly-sworn questioning, or offering commentary — cannot reasonably be thought of as in any manner comprising “private conversations“, or “private opinions.” To the extent anyone — anyone! — finds such statements newsworthy, they simply must be freely reportable, freely commented upon, and freely used, for any lawful purpose — even in partisan political advertisements.

If any person falsifies another’s position or statement, we have separate laws, rules and courts (and common-law causes of action) to remedy that wrong.

But this Rule will not pass Constitutional muster. Ever.

It does not matter what Congress “intends” — the First Amendment trumps this Rule.

Here endeth my sermon. Have a great weekend!

A Rather Minor Matter — of US House of Representatives Rule XI, Section 4(b)

This is a relatively minor matter, so it goes into the Friday throw-away/throw-down folder. And it is Friday, right? Right. So, let’s “throw-it-down,” now.

It is a minor matter, as I am aware of no effort, ever, to actually attempt to enforce this particular rule. And that is a wise choice — as, in the past, I have pointed this out [as to an earlier version of these same internal US House rules], and no one has ever suggested that the below-legal/policy-analysis is, in any appreciable way, incorrect.

A few obvious points of departure, then: First, we (the taxpayers) pay for the video feeds from each Congressional Hearing Room in Washington, D.C. Trust me on this — we paid to have the original cameras installed. It costs only a small amount to turn them on each morning, and turn them off at night, but we — the same “we” in “we, the people,” fund that effort [And I do love the effort — especially the tech-savvy staffers’ ability to very-quickly get hearing archives uploded into internet-editable video-streams!].

Second, our First Amendment reads “Congress shall make no law. . .” “abridging. . .” [among other matters] “freedom of speech. . .” — and that freedom of speech has long-held to most-strongly protect political speech.

Third, Congressional hearings invariably cover inherently political speech. Commentary on, or transmission, or re-broadcast, or web-cast, or narrow-cast, or pod-cast, or flash-animation distributed over YouTube, or similar means, of. . . such speech is thus, itself, inherently political speech.

Once again — “Congress shall make no law. . .” — consider that well, as you now read the above-refereced rule:

Rule XI, Section 4(b):

“. . .In addition, it is the intent of this clause that radio and television tapes and television film of any coverage under this clause may not be used, or made available for use, as partisan political campaign material to promote or oppose the candidacy of any person for elective public office.

4(c) It is, further, the intent of this clause that the general conduct of each meeting (whether of a hearing or otherwise) covered under authority of this clause by audio or visual means, and the personal behavior of the committee members and staff, other Government officials and personnel, witnesses, television, radio, and press media personnel, and the general public at the hearing or other meeting, shall be in strict conformity with and observance of the acceptable standards of dignity, propriety, courtesy, and decorum traditionally observed by the House in its operations, and may not be such as to —

(1) distort the objects and purposes of the hearing or other meeting or the activities of committee members in connection with that hearing or meeting or in connection with the general work of the committee or of the House; or

(2) cast discredit or dishonor on the House, the committee, or a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner or bring the House, the committee, or a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner into disrepute.

4(d) The coverage of committee hearings and meetings by audio and visual means shall be permitted and conducted only in strict conformity with the purposes, provisions, and requirements of this clause. . . .”

[Emphasis supplied.]

Rules of the US House of Representatives,
effective as of March 11, 2008
(See page 16 of that PDF File).

Note that this rule is arguably unconstitutional, on its face, and simply must be unconstitutional — as applied — to the extent that the House, or any Member, would use it to try to prohibit (or, in the words of applicable First Amendment jurisprudence, exact a “prior restraint” upon) the dissemination of videos, such as this, or this.

Statements made in public, during on-the-record Hearings before Congress, after being sworn under oath, or as to a Member, while conducting similarly-sworn questioning, or offering commentary — cannot reasonably be thought of as in any manner comprising “private conversations“, or “private opinions.” To the extent anyone — anyone! — finds such statements newsworthy, they simply must be freely reportable, freely commented upon, and freely used, for any lawful purpose — even in partisan political advertisements.

If any person falsifies another’s position or statement, we have separate laws, rules and courts (and common-law causes of action) to remedy that wrong.

But this Rule will not pass Constitutional muster. Ever.

It does not matter what Congress “intends” — the First Amendment trumps this Rule.

Here endeth my sermon. Have a great weekend!