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Senate Ban on iPads, Kindles Under Fire

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It may be 2014, but senators are still banned — for now — from using their iPads and Kindles as they see fit on the Senate floor.  

Sen. Michael B. Enzi is leading the effort to overturn the ban.  

The Wyoming Republican is frequently spotted in the Capitol carrying around electronic devices, having long ago developed an affinity for reading on a Kindle.  

“I started this effort in the last century and I’ll continue into the next if that’s what it takes to adapt this Senate rule to the times,” Enzi said in a statement issued late last week. Enzi noted that existing procedures allow some floor staffers to make use of laptops in handling chamber business.  

“We don’t want to change the decorum of the Senate. Our resolution guards against distractions, interruptions and inconveniences,” Enzi said. “We simply want senators to be able to utilize on the floor, the same tools most of us use wherever we are to help us do things better.”  

During last year’s budget resolution “vote-a-rama,” Enzi tried to get consent to use electronic devices on the floor well after midnight, but he faced opposition from Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.  

Before departing for recess on Thursday, Enzi joined with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., in introducing the new resolution, which calls on the Rules and Administration Committee to consider changing the Senate’s rules and regulations to ease restrictions on the use of electronic devices in the chamber.  

The resolution says allowable uses of portable electronics should include “delivering floor remarks from text displayed on personal digital assistant devices and tablet computers.” According to the House historian’s office , former Rep. Charles K. Djou, R-Hawaii, was the first to make use of a mobile electronic device while delivering a speech from the floor of that chamber back in 2010.  

The expanded use of electronic devices that do not “impair decorum” became permissible in the House at the start of the 112th Congress in 2011.  

The House rules were put to the test last week, when House Democrats held up iPads with a photo of House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa dragging his hand across his throat as they introduced a resolution to condemn the California Republican.  

That was ruled a violation of the rules by the chair.

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