Congress on ‘high alert’ over security threats

A series of high-profile security incidents is rocking members of Congress and prompting Capitol security officials to take significant steps to bolster security for lawmakers.

Why is this important: Threats against lawmakers have increased precipitously in recent years, and many are still reeling from the violence of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Driving the news: The House Sergeant-at-Arms announced on Wednesday plans to cover the costs of security upgrades to members’ homes, including $10,000 for equipment and installation costs and $150 per month for monitoring and maintenance.

  • The development came just weeks after a man was arrested for threatening Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) outside her home while armed with a handgun.
  • More recently, Rep. Lee Zeldin (RN.Y.), running for governor of New York, was attacked by a man holding a sharp object during a campaign event.

What they say : Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who chairs an appropriations subcommittee that oversees Capitol police, told Axios that “everyone is on high alert” following the incidents.

  • “The threats are real, the increases have been incredible,” he said. “We have to do everything we can to try to make sure people are safe. Lots of feral cats there.”
  • Ryan said Capitol Police and the Sergeant-at-Arms are doing enough to keep members safe “so far,” but added, “We still have a lot to do.”
  • A Capitol Police spokesperson told Axios that they “cannot discuss what we can or cannot do to protect members.”

The other side: Jayapal said she didn’t think security officials were doing enough. “I think we need a lot more. And, you know, I learned a lot from going through this myself,” she told Axios.

  • Jayapal said awarding the Sergeant-at-Arms is a “good step” but it wants there to be “a reserve of money [for] when we have a serious threat in our residences.”
  • After being threatened outside her home, she said, she received an assessment that recommended $50,000 to $60,000 in security upgrades.
  • Additionally, she said security officials should help clean up member addresses on the Internet and improve their communication with member offices.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.), which has received numerous death threats, wants a fundamental overhaul of member security.

  • “If you are on a certain committee, if you have a certain [leadership] title, your security is already taken care of. But increasingly we have… grassroots members, not just me, but many others, who are under increasing threat,” she told Axios.
  • There should be “an assessment of the actual threat environment for each individual member,” she said.
  • Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), a senior member of the House Administration Committee, told Axios: “Zeldin almost gets stabbed – there should have been a detail of the Capitol police surrendering immediately. in New York to protect him.”

The backdrop: Capitol security and law enforcement took no chances with Thursday’s congressional baseball game, which has been the subject of violence in the past.

  • The event has been targeted this year by climate protesters pledging to “stop” the game.
  • In response, DC police increased game security, Capitol police urged protesters to stay away, and the House Sergeant-at-Arms sent a memo to offices reassuring them that a “plan full security was in place”.
  • The demonstration ended in several arrests but no violence.
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