Aug. 29, 2014
Tom Williams/Roll Call
Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer will brief Senators today on security.

Security Debate Hits Home

Three days after the attempted assassination of one of their colleagues, some Members are calling for legislative remedies, while others are amending their own behavior to ensure security in their work meeting with constituents.

Other Members said they’re not going to change much, calling instead for balance between security and constituent access in the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger said he met Monday with staff in his Maryland and Washington, D.C., offices so they could air concerns and discuss ways to improve security.

One staffer who was hired recently to open mail was particularly shaken, Ruppersberger said, thinking that any postal threats would put him in direct danger. Other staffers were concerned about the openness of the district office, he added.

“I think the district offices are very much exposed,” the Maryland Democrat said. “Maybe there needs to be a holding area where if somebody comes into your office, you’re not exposed.”

The five-term lawmaker also suggested Members could have a dedicated staff member for security.

“You might want to have people in law enforcement who can work on your staff and be responsible for” security, the former appropriator said. “Unfortunately, that’s all going to cost money.”

Assistant Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) asked over the weekend that leadership rethink the 5 percent cut to House operating budgets passed last week to accommodate heightened security needs.

Rep. Mike Honda, the only Democrat so far announced as a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, said he would advocate for increased security spending.

“I will continue to push, as I have always done, for increased support and funding to ensure that every single person coming to work for, or visit, a Member of Congress is equipped with the systems, knowledge and awareness necessary to safely avoid, and if need be escape, all emergency situations,” the California legislator said in a statement.

Rep. Ander Crenshaw, the subcommittee’s new chairman, told Roll Call on Sunday that he is open to increasing funding for the Capitol Police and security if necessary.

“I think we have to say that the safety and security of all our Members, that’s paramount, and we ought to do whatever’s necessary,” the Florida Republican said. “I think that from the standpoint of the Capitol Police, we ought to take whatever steps are necessary to make sure of the safety and security of our Members.”

Crenshaw and House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) have called for a reappraisal of security protocol for Members, with Lungren adamant about an “A-to-Z review,” according to a spokeswoman.

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