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Security Debate Hits Home

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer will brief Senators today on security.

On Wednesday, House Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Livingood and the FBI will brief House Members about their security needs. Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer will brief Senators today.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is a friend of Giffords, said Members should stop being “cavalier” about their own security and said she is looking forward to hearing what the law enforcement professionals suggest.

“I’d like some guidance on what the security experts think are the appropriate steps we should be taking,” the Florida Democrat said. “My local law enforcement and sheriff here have asked me and provided security over the last couple of days. They keep asking me what I need and I can tell you, I don’t know what I need.”

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) predicted Members would “keep an extra eye out for precaution for something that might happen,” but that most Members would not want to significantly alter security protocols or the way they interact with constituents.

“We’re all struck with this awful event Saturday as we think about our own schedules,” he said. “But in reality, it would really change the way that we operate if you imposed such a new set of restrictions. For the most part, I think most of us would balk at additional security things. I know that that’s not who we are.”

Rep. Steve Israel said he also rejects the notion that Members should ramp up security. But he said he can take steps to make sure his staff and constituents are safe when he’s in public.

“I have decided to increase the safety and comfort of my constituents by holding future congressional community meetings in local volunteer fire departments,” the New York Democrat said in a statement. “Our local firefighters lead us in safety and security and I appreciate their willingness to host these meetings in the future.”

Rep. Jack Kingston, an appropriator who suggested cutting security details around the Capitol to save money last month, said there is likely no appetite to do that anymore. But he said he’s suggested more training for his district staffers.

“We do have panic buttons, so I asked our district director to ask that all our district staff review the procedure of using the panic button,” the Georgia Republican said.

Rep. Barbara Lee needed a security detail in 2001 after she became the only Member of Congress to vote against the resolution to go to war in Afghanistan. She’s not changing anything right now.

“No way will I shy away from public events with my constituents,” the California Democrat said. “You can’t let fear stop you from doing your work.”

Kathleen Hunter contributed to this report.

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