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Members Weigh Costs of Security

Some Call for MRA Increases in Time of Budget Cuts, Overall Debt Concerns

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Assistant Leader James Clyburn said Tuesday that he thinks Members should get individualized security assessments based on their districts.

Members are pitching a broad range of ideas to increase their security in the wake of an assassination attempt on one of their own. If any of the proposals come to fruition, one uncomfortable reality is certain: It will cost money.

For a new Republican majority elected to rein in government spending, the perceived need for more Member security could set up tricky votes on whether to spend more taxpayer money on themselves.

Speaker John Boehner met with Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Livingood on Tuesday afternoon to discuss a “security overview” in the runup to today’s closed-door security briefing for Members. 

But when asked about the spending issue Tuesday, the Ohio Republican sidestepped committing to any funding spikes.

“We’ll rely on the recommendations of the Sergeant-at-Arms and the Capitol Police,” he told Roll Call. “It’s a horrible tragedy involving one of our Members, and we’re trying to deal with the tragedy and trying to ensure we do our best to protect our Members.” 

Some of those Members, however, are calling on the Speaker to rescind his 5 percent House budget cut and actually increase personal budgets.

Assistant Leader James Clyburn told Roll Call that each district should undergo an individualized security assessment and Members representing districts more prone to threats should receive additional money in their Members’ Representational Allowances to hire security personnel.

“Each Member ought to be able to have the assessments that are made take their Congressional district into account,” the South Carolina Democrat said. “We make special provisions for Members’ travel based upon where they’re from, and I think part of the threat assessments that are made need to be where Members are from.”

Clyburn’s proposal could be one of many discussed today when House Members meet face-to-face for the first time since the Saturday shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) to discuss security with Livingood and representatives from the FBI. 

While the security meeting is likely not the venue for a discussion of the fiscal repercussions of enhancing Member security, some Members have not held back in expressing their belief that more money is needed. 

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. said he plans to propose legislation that will restore last week’s 5 percent cut to House budgets and actually increase budgets by 10 percent for district security needs.

“In some districts, that will mean hiring security personnel for public events,” the Illinois Democrat said in a statement. 

“In other areas, that may mean installing surveillance cameras at district offices as a deterrent or improving the locks or the entry systems in district offices. Some will need more resources in order to move their offices to a safer area.”

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