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House Democrats call Paul Ryan legislation "modern day gag rule"

Democrats are continuing their criticism of new legislation proposed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, with several top members saying Friday that the proposed law -- which would fine lawmakers for taking photos or videos from the House floor -- is a “modern day and unconstitutional gag rule.”

In a joint statement, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Michigan), Rules Committee ranking member Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution ranking member Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee), and Subcommittee on Intellectual Property ranking member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said House Republican leadership is “authorizing ‘speech police’” to keep Democrats from voicing their opposition.

“This unprecedented rule change, which appears to violate several fundamental constitutional protections, clearly is intended to undermine the rights of Members in the Minority to freely express their views on the House floor, which is a critical means by which Members communicate to the American public,” the statement said.

Ryan is proposing the legislation in response to a Democratic “sit-in” on the House floor last summer. Democratic House members staged an overnight, 25-hour protest on the House floor over Ryan’s refusal to allow a vote on gun control legislation, streaming video of the protest live from their cell phones after GOP House leadership turned off the House cameras.

House rules already prohibit taking photos or videos on the House floor, but Ryan’s proposal would fine members up to $2,500 for doing it.

The criticism from four Democratic House members comes two days after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wrote to Democratic colleagues that the move is a “power grab” by the GOP.

“While the American people worry for the financial security of their families, Republicans are opening the new Congress by turning their backs on the outside calls for help with an inside power grab in the House Rules,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to colleagues on Wednesday, according to Politico.