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It has recently been reported (see e.g., https://thehill.com/homenews/house/3796927-metal-detectors-removed-from-outside-the-house-chamber/) that the metal detectors that were outside the house chamber at the US Capitol were removed at the start of the new session of congress a few days ago. As the above article mentions, they were originally put in place by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

However, the current House has yet to elect a speaker. Thus, who had the authority to order the metal detector removal? Also, who actually ordered the removal, and what was the chain of command by which they were removed?

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    Given the logistics involved to have it happen right at the start of the session, I'm sure McCarthy ordered it under the presumption that he would be speaker. He even moved into the Speaker's office on that basis. "Speaker-elect" isn't a real position, but for the last hundred years, has effectively existed. That said, I have no actual information one way or the other, so I can't do more than speculate.
    – Bobson
    Jan 5 at 5:29
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    Note that the article is referring to metal detectors in front of the main entrance to the chamber floor, which is only really by sitting Representatives, their staffers, and guests who are invited by the Speaker of the House. Even the President cannot barge into chambers without the Speaker's permission. The publicly accessible portion of the room (Called the Gallery) is on the second floor and has had metal detectors prior to Jan 6th, 2021. That is in addition to the metal detectors that are at all entrance to Capital Building and the attached offices.
    – hszmv
    Jan 5 at 19:33
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    Does the Speaker have this authority unilaterally in the first place? Jan 12 at 20:21
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    That's not what I'm asking. Just because a speaker has been elected and a house has been sworn in and started business, doesn't logically imply to me that the speaker can subsequently make decisions about the physical circumstances of the building. I assume there is some legislation behind that, which is what I am wondering about. Jan 12 at 20:31
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    I understand that that is the issue OP is asking about. I am wondering about something separate. Jan 12 at 20:37

1 Answer 1

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+100

PBS News Hour reported on November 28, 2022, that —

McCarthy has assured that under his leadership, the House will remove the metal detectors that were installed to prevent firearms in the House chamber; ...

Given that McCarthy had assured removal of the metal detectors and moved into the Speaker's office, it seems, at least possible, that security officials removed the metal detectors just before noon on January 3rd, without explicit authority, knowing (or suspecting) they would otherwise be ordered to remove them later that day. In the absence of a Speaker or authority to assess fines, there would be no particular reason to have them remain.

The Sergeant at Arms is an officer of the House of Representatives, elected by the members and one whose term does not expire on January 3rd with a ending of a term of in Congress. The Office of the Sergeant at Arms has responsibility for, among other things, "House Security", which includes the installation and use of the metal detectors throughout the House side of the Capitol, such as entrances for the public.

As reported in the New York Post, January 12, 2021, —

Lawmakers will now be required to walk through metal detectors before entering the House of Representatives chamber in the wake of the Capitol riots.

The acting Sergeant At Arms announced on Tuesday afternoon that magnetometers had been placed at selected entrances to the chamber and reminded lawmakers that firearms were forbidden.

“Effective immediately, all persons, including Members, are required undergo security screening when entering the House Chamber,” the statement read.

“Failure to complete screening or the carrying of prohibited items could result in denial of access to the Chamber,” it went on.

Based on the timeline from various publicly available sources, one can surmise this sequence of events.

  • After the breach of the Capitol on January 6th, 2021, then-Sergeant at Arms, Paul Irving ordered installation of the metal detectors.

  • On January 7, 2021, Paul Irving's resignation was announced by Speaker Pelosi and, on January 12, 2021 (date of oath), Deputy Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett became acting Sergeant at Arms. Blodgett oversaw the installation and use of the metal detectors until his replacement on March 26, 2021.

  • As of March 26, 2021, William Walker became Sergeant at Arms through January 7th, 2023.

  • William McFarland became Sergeant at Arms on January 7, 2023.

The only person with senior authority to order removal of the metal detectors on January 3, 2023, was William Walker.

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