Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
A series of high-profile security incidents are troubling members of Congress and prompting Capitol security officials to take major steps to protect lawmakers.
Why this is important: Threats against lawmakers have increased sharply in recent years, and many of them are still reeling from the violence of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Running News: The House sergeant-at-arms announced plans Wednesday to cover the cost of security improvements to members’ homes, including $10,000 for equipment and installation and $150 per month for monitoring and maintenance.
- The incident comes just weeks after a man was arrested for threatening Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) with a handgun outside her home.
- Most recently, Representative Lee Zeldin (RN.Y.), who is running for governor of New York, was attacked by a man with a sharp object at a campaign event.
What they are saying: Rep., who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees the Capitol Police. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), told Axios that “everyone is on high alert” in light of these events.
- “The threats are real, the growth is incredible,” he said. “We have to do everything we can to make sure people are safe. There are a lot of feral cats out there.”
- Ryan said the Capitol Police and sergeant-at-arms are doing enough “so far” to keep members safe, but added, “We have a lot more to do.”
- A Capitol Police spokesperson told Axios that it “cannot discuss what we will or cannot do to protect members.”
The other side: Jaipal said he does not think security officials are doing enough. “I think we need a lot more. And, you know, I’ve learned a lot from going through this myself,” she told Axios.
- Jaipal said the allotment of sergeant-at-arms was a “good step” but felt there should be a “pool of money”. [for] When we have a serious threat to our habitat.”
- After she was threatened outside her home, she said, she received an assessment that recommended $50,000-$60,000 in security improvements.
- In addition, she said security officials should help scrub members’ addresses from the Internet and improve communication with members’ offices.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.), who have received numerous death threats, want a fundamental overhaul of member security.
- “If you’re on certain committees, if you have certain things [leadership] Title, your security is already taken care of. But increasingly we have … rank-and-file members, not just me but many others, who are increasingly threatened,” she told Axios.
- “The actual threat environment must be assessed for each individual member,” she said.
- Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), the ranking member of the House Administration Committee, told Axios: “Zeldin almost got hit — there should have been a Capitol Police detail to fly to New York to protect him immediately.”
Background: Capitol security and law enforcement took no chances at Thursday’s congressional baseball game, which has previously been the subject of violence.
- This year climate protesters targeted the event, vowing to “shut down” the games.
- In response, D.C. police increased security for the game, Capitol police urged protesters to stay away, and the House sergeant-at-arms sent a memo to offices assuring them they had a “comprehensive security plan.”
- The demonstration led to several arrests but no violence.