Today Senate Rules Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) decided to go against the long-standing norm to grant news reporters permission to gather in the hallways of Congress. The decision set out to enforce a 1993 rule that requires multiple procedural hoops before a reporter can be granted access to a member of the Senate on congressional premises.
Thanks to Senate Rules Ranking Member Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the decision was later reversed; however, we are deeply concerned that reporter access to U.S. Senators was even questioned and that it could lead to cases of other lawmakers invoking this rule, which would severely impact the public’s access to information in a timely manner.
Upon hearing of Chairman Shelby’s decision, Klobuchar expressed serious concerns, convincing Chairman Shelby to reverse direction on the implementation of the rule and to once again grant reporters free access. We applaud Chairman Shelby for reversing the decision and applaud Senator Klobuchar for her willingness to defend the freedom of the press.
Had the decision to bar reporters been upheld, there could have been severe consequences for the free flow of information to the public. We call upon other lawmakers to ensure that such restrictions are not considered in the future.
Now more than ever, our democracy depends on the watchdog role of journalism and the ability to receive open access to lawmakers.
David Chavern is former President & CEO of the News/Media Alliance. Chavern has 30 years of experience in executive strategic and operational roles. Prior to the Alliance, he completed a decade-long tenure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.