Robert Byrd beat back an anti-TV filibuster threat by Russell Long to allow for C-Span coverage of the Senate in the 1980s. Today, his family is blocking coverage of the viewing of his casket in the Senate, though it was allowed for public viewings of both Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford's viewings. (A single still photographer was allowed into the chamber, for the first time in nearly 50 years.)
As the late Sen. Robert Byrd's coffin lies in repose on the Senate floor, C-SPAN has been refused permission to broadcast the event, causing members of the Radio-Television Correspondents Association to send a formal complaint to Senate Rules Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
In a letter sent Wednesday, Chad Pergram, a Fox News reporter and executive committee member of the correspondents association, requested that the Senate approve a resolution to allow the Senate's television cameras to run in the Senate while Byrd's body lies in repose for six hours today.
Senate cameras are typically allowed to run anytime the Senate is in session.
But Schumer rejected the request yesterday, much to the ire of reporters, due to Byrd's familiy's wishes to keep the ceremony untelevised.
Changing the policy would require a resolution passed by the Senate.
"The policy not to permit such coverage in the Senate Chamber is in accordance to the standing rules of the Senate and the Rules for Regulation of the Senate Wing of the United States Capitol and Senate Office Buildings," Schumer replied in a letter Thursday night.
The standstill is creating a headache for television stations around the country that draw their congressional footage from the cameras.
Members of the executive committee say lawmakers must question whether the wishes of Byrd's family members should overtake the right of the taxpayers, who pay for the Senate-owned television cameras, to view the ceremony honoring Byrd today.