More money is needed to protect lawmakers from threats of violence coming from an “enemy” within Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday, a startling acknowledgment of how tensions over safety have escalated since this month's Capitol attack by supporters of former President Donald Trump.
The California Democrat told reporters she thinks Congress will need to provide more money “for more security for members, when the enemy is within the House of Representatives, a threat that members are concerned about.”
Asked to clarify what she meant, Pelosi said, “It means that we have members of Congress who want to bring guns on the floor and have threatened violence on other members of Congress.”
Pelosi's remarks underscored how anxiety about security has remained high in Congress since Trump supporters’ Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, which led to five deaths. Lawmakers, including some who voted for this month’s House impeachment of Trump, have reported receiving threats.
The apprehension has taken on clear partisan undertones. Some Republicans have loudly objected to having to pass through newly installed metal detectors before they enter the House chamber, while Pelosi has proposed fining lawmakers who bypass the devices.
Pelosi did not say whom she meant by her reference to an “enemy" within the House, and a spokesperson provided no examples when asked.
Earlier this month, the HuffPost website reported that Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., set off a newly installed metal detector while trying to enter the House chamber and was found to be carrying a concealed gun. Other Republicans have also talked about carrying firearms, which lawmakers are permitted to do, though not on the House or Senate floors.
Pelosi said she was meeting Thursday with retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who is leading a security review of the Capitol.
She said he was examining ways to protect lawmakers “in terms of their service here, their service home, their transportation in between.” Lawmakers have already been told they can tap accounts they use for office expenses for some security steps.
The campus has been surrounded by barrier fences and patrolled by National Guard troops, and new internal security procedures have been put in place, such as the installation of more screening devices.
The public is barred from carrying firearms on Capitol grounds, but members of Congress can keep guns in their offices or transport them on the campus if they’re unloaded and securely wrapped.
On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security issued a national terrorism bulletin warning of the possibility of more violence from people motivated by antigovernment sentiment after President Joe Biden’s election. The department did not cite any specific plots.
A Senate trial on whether to punish Trump is set to begin next month, following his House impeachment on a charge of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol.
Trump made incendiary remarks to a throng of supporters that day, urging them to march to the building. Lawmakers at the time were formally certifying Biden’s election victory, which Trump has repeatedly attributed to fraud.
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