Politics

After Late-Night Rumpus, Matt Gaetz Wants C-SPAN Cameras on House Floor at All Times

Tensions were high on the House floor late Friday night as Kevin McCarthy was on the cusp of becoming speaker
Tensions were high on the House floor late Friday night as Kevin McCarthy was on the cusp of becoming speaker Screenshot via C-SPAN
It was the end of a chaotic week in Congress, and tensions were flaring when Kevin McCarthy trekked across the House floor to confront Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, whose "present" vote had just contributed to McCarthy losing his 14th bid in four days for Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

McCarthy posted up to have a word with Gaetz as a crowd gathered around the aisle to watch the exchange.

Joining the fracas, Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers strolled up and leaned in towards a seated Gaetz, gesturing angrily at him. In an unusual restraint technique, another congressman intervened by wrapping his fingers around Rogers' face and pulling him away.

Thanks to C-SPAN, the whole melee was captured on camera and broadcast live to the nation round midnight Friday.

The footage was raw. It was real. It was, as many-an-observer noted, superior to most reality television. (Semafor reported that even before the late-night tiff, C-SPAN's coverage of the McCarthy vote drama was drawing ratings higher than that of Growing Up Chrisley on E!)

In the few days since the kerfuffle, government transparency advocates have been calling for the nonprofit cable network to remain a permanent fixture on the House floor.

Now, it appears that Gaetz himself is pushing to make that a reality.
On January 10, Gaetz introduced an amendment to the House rules seeking to allow C-SPAN cameras on the floor of the congressional chamber during regular proceedings. The amendment would require the Speaker of the House to allow a minimum of four C-SPAN cameras to broadcast and record the floor proceedings.

"Last week, America watched in real time how our government is functioning. I’m introducing an amendment to allow @CSPAN cameras on the House floor at all times," Gaetz tweeted. "Broader transparency in Congress is a net positive, and we need more of it."

In an interview with Fox News, Gaetz said he received positive feedback from constituents who said it was compelling to watch government function (or attempt to function) in real time on C-SPAN.

"I have talked to a handful of colleagues, and I have yet to encounter one who didn’t view the broader transparency as a net positive," Gaetz told Fox News. "It’s interesting to see how our leaders communicate with one another, and it's humanizing."

So far, the idea appears to have resonated with the broader public — even a number of people who emphasize their tendency to disagree with Gaetz.

"It doesn’t happen often but on this I agree with @mattgaetz," wrote Democrat Rep. Don Beyer.

"Goddammit he's right," one Twitter user wrote of the amendment. Others aptly responded with the meme, "Heartbreaking: The Worst Person You Know Just Made A Great Point".
McCarthy took control of the gavel early Saturday morning after days of tense negotiations with a small hardline faction within the Republican Party, who held out against the California congressman's bid for  Speaker of the House in a historically long stretch of votes — and whose demands to which he ultimately conceded.

Last week, C-SPAN's live coverage of the House of Representatives' relentless attempts to vote in McCarthy generated a spike in viewership for the network. On Tuesday, the House proceedings were seen by more than 379,000 households, according to the Wall Street Journal. While private video equipment is typically not permitted on the House floor, C-SPAN is allowed to bring in its cameras during certain high-profile proceedings.

The C-SPAN cameras caught a handful of viral moments, including newly-elected congressman and serial fibber George Santos sitting alone in the congressional chamber, bored children waiting for their parents, and representatives from opposite sides of the political aisle chatting it up, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) and Gaetz.

As of Monday, C-SPAN cameras had left the House chamber. It remains to be seen whether they'll one day return as fixtures.
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Alex DeLuca is a staff writer at Miami New Times.
Contact: Alex DeLuca

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