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After a number of highly-contested partisan votes in Congress, opposition parties have been known to show their strong disagreement by holding press conferences in front of the Capitol building with nearly their entire caucus present. This gesture was a tradition for a while (in my recent memory). How did it start? Has it ended? What were the reasons for it?

My purely speculative opinion is that it started because congressmen have legal immunity for anything they say on the floor of their chamber. So making comments which were clearly outside of the building was a way to indicate that they were not taking advantage of the immunity and that they stood by those words even if they were legally challenged.

This doesn't happen a lot nowadays though. So this could be because this understanding (of what speech is legally protected even if it is an outright lie) is not so widely spread.

But it's just as possible that this could be a result of technical issues of how interviews and press conferences are conducted.

Does anyone know what the history of this tradition is?

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My purely speculative opinion is that it started because congressmen have legal immunity for anything they say on the floor of their chamber.

Very unlikely. I never heard that mentioned while I was an intern in Congress or in any of the books on Congress that I read in college. Also, legally, the hallways and foyers of the Capitol building, and its front lawn, have the same legal status in terms of legislative immunity.

Much better light, poor acoustics in the Capitol building, and a lack of room to fit hundreds of people into a group that photographers can fit into one frame in the Capitol building are much more likely possibilities.

Furthermore, the U.S. Capitol is more of a distinctive backdrop that clearly establishes context on the outside than it is on the inside, and far more people have seen it from the outside than from the inside. On the inside, to anyone other than a political architecture fan or a Dan Brown novel junkie, it could be mistaken for many different buildings including museums, opera houses, hotels, court houses and state capitols.

I suspect that the tradition dates to the time period when audio and more importantly, video recording were possible which would make the factors relevant. This would have happened sometime in the middle of the 20th century.

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