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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweet on paid ‘line-standing’ in Congress

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said she was shocked to learn on Wednesday that lobbyists and others pay people to stand in line for them outside of particularly well-attended congressional hearings.

The freshman Democrat tweeted out a photo of a long line people, some of them seated in chairs, outside a House chamber where a financial services committee hearing on banking services for marijuana-related businesses was scheduled to take place.

“Shock doesn’t begin to cover it. Today I left a hearing on homelessness & saw tons of people camped outside committee. I turned to my staff and asked if it was a demonstration,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “‘No,’ they said. ‘Lobbyists pay the homeless + others to hold their place so they can get in 1st.'”

“Apparently this is a normal practice, and people don’t bat an eye,” Ocasio-Cortez added in another tweet.

Indeed, As Ocasio-Cortez noted, the practice is fairly common in the halls of Congress. In fact, there are multiple companies that provide human placeholders for a fee.

Some lawmakers have taken issue with the practice in the past. Former Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, tried to pass legislation banning paid line-standing in 2007.

“I find it troubling that everyone in this room is getting paid by someone,” the senator said at the time.

But the ultimately unsuccessful effort faced significant pushback from the line-standing industry, which argued that the practice helps employ many unskilled workers.

“Enacting this bill and forcing the lobbyists to ‘Get in Line’ themselves would not change their need to get into these hearings,” Linestanding.com owner Mark Gross wrote in 2007. “By eliminating an industry that employs hundreds of entry-level workers, and instead creating positions for even more lobbyists, the bill would have the opposite effect of that intended.”

But Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, pointed out in a Wednesday tweet that the Supreme Court banned members of the Court’s bar from using so-called “line-standers” back in 2015. Paid line holders are still used occasionally in the public seating line for major cases.

There are just a few dozen sought-after seats open to the public in the highest court — and the AP reported that some were paying placeholders as much as $6,000 to wait in line for oral argument in the landmark 2015 same-sex marriage case.

“Maybe Congress should follow suit?” Vladeck wrote.

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