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No photographic memory in the Senate

WASHINGTON – It was a picture-perfect moment. As the Senate called for the beginning of the 116th Congress, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, co-workers and potential rivals of the presidency shared a brief hug at the Senate League just minutes after they were both sworn in for their new terms. [19659002] Then there was Mitt Romney, the former Republican presidential candidate who ran across the floor as a proud new member of Utah. Smiling new and old senators lined up alphabetically to take office of Vice President Mike Pence as their colleagues patted the floor in the middle of a state rejection. It was a lot to take in.

But it was the stodgy senate that no photographers were available to capture the scene when they were banned from the chamber. While accredited photographers got special access to the house gallery to take back colorful shots of Nancy Pelosi who speak, the young people who roamed the floor and the diverse freshman class settled remained a shutter zone as it has almost been its entire story.

What a loss, Senator Roy Blunt, Republican Missouri, thought when he examined the celebrations.

"I thought none of this will be part of the country's picture history," said Mr Blunt.

He was not just a member of the Senate who regretted a missed opportunity. As President of the Senate Rules Committee, he could actually do something about the situation, and Mr Blunt said he was open to a change of rules that would allow photography in the Senate for special occasions, such as the opening of a new congress. 19659002] "I'm not against it," said Mr Blunt, adding that he felt sorry for not being as basic as a group shot of senators sworn in together.

He is not the only one.

"The family-friendly flood that we all saw on the House floor last week is good enough to allow pictures on special occasions in the Senate," said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat and an avid photographer. who is senior member of the Senate.

In a world where almost everyone carries a camera everywhere, it may be shocking to some that there is even a question of allowing photography in the senate. But in an institution that clings to its dusty traditions like a koala bear to a eucalyptus tree, it is even possible to talk about allowing in cameras to be contentious.

Senate rules are notoriously difficult to change. It took months for Senator Tammy Duckworth, the Democrat of Illinois, to gain permission to bring her newborns to the floor. (The change was limited to people under 1 year.)

The Senate sessions are, of course, television, and both Parliament and the Senate are paragraphs of transparency in relation to the closed Supreme Court. But the cameras that supply feed to C-Span are run by public employees. The perspective is often targeted, and does not show the full range of interesting interactions in the chamber. The hug between Mr Sanders, Independent Vermont, and Mrs. Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat, was covered on television. And no one will dispute that photographs can transmit for a moment much differently than a video feed.

However, for years, the Senate has resisted opposition from news photographers to allow them access to special events, let alone regular sessions, and see it as potentially disruptive and perhaps even politically risky. Out of a long-standing concern that members will be caught upset, asleep or in another embarrassing stance, the Senate still forbids photographers from pointing their cameras toward the Senate door for the fear that a person inside will be caught unawares.

The Life Magazine in June 1938 published what it called the first image ever taken on the Senate floor while it was in session, according to the Senate's historic office. Then, in the 1950s, the Senate adopted a photography prohibition rule to restrict snapping of surreptive images. In the 1960s, the rule was set aside a few times to let the National Geographic Society photograph the Senate in session for an illustrated book that it produced at Congress. But such cases were few and far between, and many memorable moments, including President Bill Clinton's accusation, continued without photography allowed.

The Senate was also slow to embrace the idea of ​​doubting its cause. With President Richard M. Nixon, who potentially faces a prosecution project in 1974, Senate leaders prepared for the prospect of sending out the event. After Nixon's resignation, the Senate decided instead to allow rare television and photographic coverings of Nelson A. Rockefeller's vow as Vice President of Gerald R. Ford in December.

After the Parliament agreed on television broadcasts in 1979, the Senate came under new pressure to follow the tropics. But some veteran members bowed and said they feared that the cameras would motivate some colleagues to be prolonged and play for the television audience – as if it could ever happen!

But in the mid-1980s there was an alarm that August but untelevised senate began playing the second fiddle in the public mind for the highly visible house was enough to motivate the Senate's two leaders, bob dole, Republican Kansas and Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia's Democrat, to accept a C-Span race trial that was quickly made permanent.

The house is once again in front of the Senate. House officials now allow photographers and independent television cameras to select selected events, such as opening a new congress, addressing the Union and speaking of foreign dignitaries to congressional meetings. (The house is also more friendly in general to electronic devices for both lawmakers and the news media.)

The pictures from the first day of the house, chockablock with babies, happy legislators and even a youth sneaking with a gable, presented the institution in a positive and candlelight. A comparison of the coverage of the two chambers could help encourage senators to act.

Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the Accounting Committee whose father was a long-term kiosk, said she would be willing to pursue possible rules change with her Republican counterpart.

"Our democracy is stronger when journalists and the public have access to their government and I will continue to work with Senator Blunt to make the Senate as accessible as possible to the press, including photographers," she said.

In view of an explosion of general interest around the Trump administration and the shift of power in Parliament, Congressmen are already trying to find a way to balance a major press in security and public access. Allowing some photography in the Senate on special occasions seems like a modest step forward. By standing by an obsolete photography ban, senators are not just short story, they shorten themselves.

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