Congress on “high alert” amid security threats

A series of high-profile security incidents is confusing members of Congress and prompting Capitol security officials to take major steps to bolster the security of lawmakers.

Why it matters: Threats against lawmakers have increased rapidly in recent years, and many of them are still reeling from the violence of the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

Send the news: The House sergeant-at-arm announced plans Wednesday to cover the cost 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.), who is 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 the Capitol Police Department, told Axios that “everyone is on high alert” in the wake of these incidents.

  • “The threats are real, the increases are incredible,” he said. “We have to do everything we can to make sure people are safe. There are a lot of feral cats.”
  • Ryan said Capitol Police and Sergeant-at-arms are doing enough to protect members “so far,” but added, “We have a lot more 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 thinks security officials are not doing enough. “I think we need a lot more. And you know, I learned a lot going through this myself,” she told Axios.

  • Jayapal said the assignment of the sergeant-at-arms is a “good move” but that means there is “a pool of money” [for] if we have a serious threat in our homes.”
  • After being threatened outside her home, she said, she received an assessment recommending $50,000-$60,000 in security upgrades.
  • In addition, she said security officials should help remove members’ addresses from the Internet and improve their communication with members’ offices.

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

  • “If you’re on a certain committee, if you have a certain” [leadership] title, your safety is already taken care of. But increasingly we have… ordinary members, not just me, but many others, who are subject to increasing threats,” she told Axios.
  • There should be “an assessment of the actual threat environment for each individual member,” she said.
  • Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), the chief member of the House Administration Committee, told Axios, “Zeldin almost gets stabbed — a Capitol Police retailer should have gone to New York immediately to protect him.”

The background: 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 this year has been targeted by climate protesters who vowed to “shut down” the game.
  • In response, DC’s police increased the security of the game, Capitol police urged protesters to stay away, and the House sergeant-at-arm sent a memo to the offices to reassure them. state that there was a ‘comprehensive security plan’.
  • The demonstration resulted in several arrests, but no violence.

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