Security in Congress has long been a matter of balancing the safety of members against concerns about spending and the accessibility of the people’s representatives. Providing round-the-clock security to 535 lawmakers — nevermind their families — would be costly, and members of both parties have chafed at the idea of walling themselves off from the public.
“The attempted murder of Mr. Pelosi really sent shock waves across the country because people thought not only are representatives vulnerable, but so are their families,” said Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit that advises departments across the country on management and tactics. “It’s a daunting task. You have representatives spread all over the country.”
Still, as threats have grown, experts have warned that more is needed.
Russel L. Honoré, a retired lieutenant general who conducted a review of Capitol security after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, recommended hiring more than 800 new Capitol Police officers — a proposal that was not followed.
General Honoré said he concluded during his review that Congress was “cheap as hell” about member security, in part because lawmakers view it as bad politics to vote for security measures for themselves that their constituents do not have.
On Tuesday, he called for funding from the Homeland Security Department to be distributed to local law enforcement to provide details for all lawmakers who request them for the next 30 days, while the threat of political violence will be at a high around the election.
“On any given day, you’ve got to be prepared for an attack,” General Honoré said. “We need to do something immediately. Don’t tell me it’s about money. We can find the money.”
Republicans in Congress have faced nearly the same level of threats as Democrats, but have been far less willing to spend money to strengthen security. Shortly after the Jan. 6 attack, every House Republican voted against legislation to provide about $2 billion in emergency Capitol security spending; ultimately, Congress approved about $70 million for the Capitol Police force and millions for upgrading the Capitol building.