Washington, DC – Congress is working on a supplemental appropriations bill under the auspices of “Capitol security” that would increase security inside the U.S. Capitol complex and give federal lawmakers more money to spend on personal security for themselves.
“I do believe – and I have said this all along – that we will probably need a supplemental for more security for members when the enemy is within the House of Representatives, a threat that members are concerned about in addition to what is happening outside,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said, according to Roll Call.
Pelosi was asked to explain what she meant when she said “the enemy is within.”
“It means that we have members of Congress who want to bring guns on the floor and have threatened violence on other members of Congress,” the speaker of the House explained.
There has been a clash between Republican and Democratic lawmakers since the Jan. 6 Capitol riot over whether lawmakers could carry weapons to the Capitol.
Representatives and senators, by law, may carry while in the U.S. Capitol complex, but the rules have traditionally prohibited them from carrying in the House or Senate chamber.
Many lawmakers have for years skipped U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) security checkpoints and metal detectors for expediency sake, and officers have shown deference and not tried to stop them.
But after the Capitol riot, new metal detectors popped up in multiple locations, including the entrance to the House chamber, and some lawmakers refused to cooperate despite the recent violent chaos.
Freshman U.S. Representative Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado), who announced she planned to carry in the Capitol before she was even elected, has been one of the most vocal figures in the battle against the increased security members put in place by Democrats.
U.S. Capitol Police officers have been on 12-hour shifts since the Capitol riot, Roll Call reported.
More than 25,000 National Guard troops were deployed to DC to help provide additional security for the Inauguration.
Although some guardsmen have been sent home – and some were recalled by their governors after the troops were treated poorly and told to sleep in a garage – Democrats have said they intend to keep thousands of troops in the city through the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, CBS News reported.
The supplemental appropriations bill would pay for enhanced security in the Capitol, including all the new metal detectors, Roll Call reported.
But Pelosi has also said she wanted to give members money to pay for their personal security so it didn’t have to come out of their existing personal office budgets, which is called the Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA).
“I do think though that while it’s appropriate that they use their MRA for their security, they shouldn’t have to because that money is there for them to meet the needs of their constituents,” she said.
Multiple members have asked the speaker to clarify what MRA can pay for and Pelosi said most of what they were asking about was already permitting under the MRA rules, Roll Call reported.
The Members’ Congressional Handbook says that MRA funds may be used to purchase ballistic vests, to hire security personnel to attend public community events, to guard their district offices during business hours, and to accompany members on official business.
In 2017, Congress gave the House sergeant at arms $5 million to beef up district security measures, including panic buttons, cameras, and other security infrastructure, according to Roll Call.
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) confirmed that legislation was in the works to boost Capitol security funding.
“There’s obviously significant costs attached to the security footprint,” Murphy told Roll Call. “We’re working through a supplemental request from Capitol Police and sergeant-at-arms right now.”
Pelosi tapped retired Army Lieutenant General Russel Honoré to review security in the wake of the riot inside and beyond the U.S. Capitol complex.
“He is looking at members here, members at home and in between,” Pelosi said.
Honoré’s assessment isn’t expected to be completed until March, but new security measures are already being initiated to protect lawmakers, Roll Call reported.
But Pelosi said that starting immediately, U.S. Air Marshals would provide security on members’ flights to and from the nation’s capital.
And the acting House sergeant at arms created an online portal for representatives to input their travel plans so that information can be shared with local and airport police, CBS News reported.
U.S. Capitol Police will also start providing some extra security for lawmakers in DC train stations and nearby airports.
“USCP will not be available for personal escorts,” read an email from the House sergeant at arms. “However, they will be in place to monitor as Members move throughout the airport.”