Reporters: Senate Rules Committee Restricting Interviews

Reporters are apparently facing yet another hurdle when trying to cover the politics of dysfunction.

According to various tweets from confused journalists, the Senate Rules Committee is trying to restrict when and where reporters can ask questions of senators.

Historically journalists can wait outside a hearing room and legislators often stop for a gaggle and answer a few questions about the hearing or other issues, but NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent Kasie Hunt said Senate gallery staffers told her she would have to contact the rules committee for permission to do interviews.

This comes only hours before embattled attorney general Jeff Sessions is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and reporters from major news operations, many covering the event live, were converging on the Senate and, obviously, looking to buttonhole senators following the hearing for their reactions.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)—a prominent member of the Senate Commerce Committee and ranking member of the Rules Committee, which oversees communications issues—tweeted that that Republicans should back off.

While senior CNN congressional correspondent Manu Raju tweeted that reporters should complain to the rules committee.

A House-side source said they had heard chatter about the restriction on the Senate side but not the House.
"Reports that Capitol Police officers may have been directed to obstruct reporter access in Capitol are deeply disturbing," said Michael Copps, former FCC chairman and special advisor to Common Cause. "American democracy depends on a functional and unfettered press, but recently press freedom has been under attack as rarely before. The American people need to know whether the Capitol Police were ordered to curtail reporter access in the Senate, and if so, by whom. And most importantly full access to the Capitol must be restored for all reporters and photographers. Congress may prefer to operate behind closed doors but its business is the business of the American people who elected Members to represent them in Washington."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.