As described in this Hill article by Alexander Bolton, Vice President Biden’s office has filed a complaint with the Senate Press Gallery regarding the tactics used by a credentialed reporter who used the pretense of posing for a photograph with the Vice President to get close enough to ask him a question. In case you were wondering what authority the Press Gallery has, and where it comes from, here is a brief summary.
The D.C. Circuit described the background of the congressional press galleries in Consumers Union v. Periodical Press Gallery, 515 F.2d 1341 (D.C. Cir. 1975):
When Congress first convened in 1789, “the Legislative as well as Executive sittings of the Senate were held with closed doors” (1 Annals of Cong. 16 (1789)), but the House of Representatives admitted the press to the floor so they might report the debates of the House (1 Annals of Cong. 952-56 (1789)). In 1794, the Senate authorized limited access to its galleries by the public and in 1802 resolved that “any stenographer or note-taker, desirous to take the debates of the Senate on Legislative business, may be admitted for that purpose at such place, within the area of the Senate Chamber, as the President shall allot.” (11 (7th Congress) Annals of Cong. 22 (1802 (1801-1802)) ). For a time thereafter, reporters were permitted on the floors of the Senate and House. This privilege apparently was abused with considerable frequency by journalists importuning Members on behalf of various claims before Congress. (Cong.Globe, 32d Cong., 2d Sess. 52 (1852)). For that reason and the growing congestion on the floors, both Houses finally enacted rules permanently removing the press from the floors of Congress. Press galleries above the floors were eventually established and in 1888 the Senate (Cong.Directory, 50th Cong., 1st Sess. 160 (1888)), and 1916 the House (53 Cong.Rec. 1214 (1916)), entrusted their management to a Standing Committee of Correspondents.
Some more detail may be found in this interesting article, which describes how Senate Whigs, led by Henry Clay, created the first “Reporter’s Gallery” in 1841, and how the press first took on the responsibility of self-regulation in 1879, when rules for the Galleries were drafted in the offices of the New York Times.
The congressional press galleries are currently governed by House Rule VI and Senate Rule XXXIII, which give the Speaker of the House and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration the authority to prescribe regulations for the portions of the galleries set aside for the press in their respective chambers. House Rule VI also explicitly establishes self-governance by the press galleries, providing for a Standing Committee of Correspondents for the Press Gallery (governing newspaper reporters), an Executive Committee of Correspondents for the Periodical Press Gallery (governing magazine reporters) and an Executive Committee of the Radio and Television Correspondents Galleries (governing radio and tv reporters), to supervise their respective galleries, subject to the direction and control of the Speaker.
(Interestingly, up until the current Congress, House Rule VI also provided for privileged access to the floor for five media outlets (AP, UPI, CBS, NBC and ABC). These provisions were deleted from the rules adopted by the 112th Congress.)
Pursuant to authority provided by their respective rules, the Speaker and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration have adopted Rules and Regulations governing the three press galleries. These rules establish criteria for admission and conduct by members of the galleries and are applied by the press committee for each gallery.
The Rules and Regulations of the Periodical Press Gallery (which would be applicable to the magazine reporter who questioned the Vice President) may be found here. (Note: the VP’s office apparently complained to the wrong press gallery.) The regulations regarding reporter conduct are fairly minimal, and do not appear to apply to the conduct alleged by the Vice President’s office. The regulations require that accredited reporters obey a dress code, refrain from audible conversation and reading newspapers while in the House and Senate chambers, avoid eavesdropping in the Speaker’s Lobby and obey all security regulations.
I doubt that the Executive Committee will take any action on the Vice President’s complaint. If it should do so, however, it should be noted that the reporter would have limited avenues of redress. In the Consumers Union case, the D.C. Circuit held that decisions regarding admission to the congressional press galleries were immune from judicial review as the subject was one exclusively committed to the House and Senate under the Rules of Proceedings and Speech or Debate Clauses.
I represented the Periodical Press Gallery in the late 1990s in a case, Schreibman v. Holmes, where Mr. Schreibman, who published a one-man internet news service, was denied credentials by the Executive Committee. Although not explicitly provided for by the rules, Schreibman first appealed the denial to the Speaker and Senate Rules and Administration Committee (neither took any action). He then brought suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where Judge Urbina held the case non-justiciable under Consumers Union. Schriebman appealed to the D.C. Circuit and attempted to convince the court that Consumers Union was either distinguishable or should be overruled based on subsequent case law. The court bought neither argument and denied the appeal.
Although I was victorious in the Schreibman case, Mr. Schreibman may have the last laugh, seeing as how I now run a one-man blog and wouldn’t mind getting admitted to the Periodical Press Gallery myself. Such is life.