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Journalists face surprise restrictions on Capitol Hill access

The steps of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The steps of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

Political reporters and several senators on Tuesday protested a sudden shift in rules for how journalists can access senators, just as Republicans are trying to pass an Obamacare replacement bill.

Journalists were told Tuesday that they cannot “film interviews with senators in hallways, contrary to years of precedent,” according to NBC News’ Kasie Hunt. They now have to get permission from both the senator and the Senate Rules Committee, she said.

GOP Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama denied that any “change” took place and said the committee wanted to enforce “existing rules” in order to provide a “safe environment” for senators and reporters.

That came after some journalists said the rule change was already being enforced, according to Politico.

Reporters said the move could reduce the information that gets out to Americans about their elected representatives.

Several senators criticized the change shortly after reporters began tweeting about it. Democrats also noted that it came as GOP senators carry out what has been called a secretive process to pass a bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, which comes after a House-passed health care bill fueled considerable public opposition.

Klobuchar called on Republicans to “allow reporting in the Capitol to proceed as usual.”

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted that “press access should never be restricted unfairly, particularly not when one party is trying to sneak a major bill through Congress.”

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said journalists are “pretty down on the list” of problems in the U.S., according to a Politico reporter.

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri also suggested that the change had to do with the health-care bill.

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