House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Thursday that she’s committed to addressing the concerns of her colleagues over security but said that effort is hampered because “the enemy is within the House of Representatives,” referencing the rhetoric and behavior of some Republican members of Congress.
Pelosi was asked about how members are concerned for their own security in the wake of the Capitol attack and violent rhetoric from other members, following a letter more than 30 lawmakers signed asking for more flexibility regarding the use of congressional allowance for personal security in their home districts and other security related requests. Pelosi also cited a security review currently being conducted by retired Lt. General Russel Honoré, with whom she met on Thursday to receive an initial assessment.
“So we want to have a scientific approach to how we protect members,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference. “I do believe and I have said this all along we will probably need a supplemental for more security for members when the enemy is within the House of Representatives, a threat that members are concerned about in addition to what is happening outside.”
When pressed by reporters about what she meant by that comment, 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 did not clarify which lawmakers she was referencing. US Capitol Police had investigated an incident in which a Republican lawmaker was stopped from bringing a concealed gun onto the House floor last week, sources told CNN, the first time a member of Congress has been discovered with a firearm by the metal detectors now set up outside the legislative chamber.
In response to the letter requesting additional resources and flexibility for security, Pelosi said Thursday the concerns in a letter from lawmakers requesting more flexibility for using their congressional allowances has already been addressed.
“First of all, I appreciate the letter from the members but most of the questions, items on the list, have already been done,” she said. “Perhaps they were not aware, and I take responsibility for them not being aware.”
Her remarks come after more than 30 House members sent a letter to Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday requesting more flexibility for using their congressional allowances toward helping their personal safety by hiring local law enforcement or other security personnel for their home district offices.
“While the U.S. Capitol is protected by the United States Capitol Police with the support of strong security measures, including vehicle barriers and metal detectors, most Members spend the majority of their time in their Congressional Districts where security is often sparse,” they wrote in the letter. “Protecting Members in their District is much harder because local law enforcement agencies are stretched and limited, and often don’t have sufficient staffing or money to provide regular protection to Members. Except for Leadership, Members do not have security details protecting them.”
Thursday’s letter took issue with existing rules regarding the rules governing member allowance use, describing the protocols as “constrictive and anachronistic, set in a time before the current.”
CBS News first reported the letter.
The request is the latest development in a string of reactions to the deadly Capitol Hill riot on January 6 that has shaken lawmakers and their staff. As threats continue to mount against members of Congress, concern is growing about the safety of some lawmakers when they travel outside Washington and the security bubble it provides, multiple sources told CNN earlier this week.
The letter was written by Democratic Reps. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Dean Phillips of Minnesota and addressed to Pelosi, McCarthy, and the chairwoman and ranking Republican member of the House Administration Committee, Reps. Zoe Lofgren of California and Rodney Davis of Illinois. While the list was mostly signed by Democrats, one Republican signed onto the letter — Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan.
This comes after the Committee on House Administration sent a letter to members earlier this month reminding them of various options they had for security-related expenses “in light of the tragic events related to the seditious breach of the Capitol.”
The January 11 letter circulated to members reminded them that in their districts, they can get reimbursed for having security at a district event or outside district offices. The letter instructed members that the House Sergeant at Arms will provide “certain security enhancements” for district offices and that a bullet proof vest and security training are also considered reimbursable expenses.
Yogananda Pittman, the acting chief of the US Capitol Police, on Thursday called for permanent fencing and other enhanced security measures around the Capitol complex.
“In light of recent events, I can unequivocally say that vast improvements to the physical security infrastructure must be made to include permanent fencing, and the availability of ready, back-up forces in close proximity to the Capitol,” Pittman said in a statement.
Pittman continued: “I look forward to working with Congress on identifying the security improvements necessary to ensure the safety and security of the Congress and the U.S. Capitol.”
But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle pushed back on the idea of fencing around the Capitol. Democratic Rep. Jake Auchincloss, a Massachusetts freshman, tweeted that it would be a “mistake to turn the home of our democracy into a fortress.” Rep. Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican, tweeted, “This is the People’s House. I am adamantly opposed. There has been no threat briefing given to Members of Congress to justify this proposal.”
Asked about Pittman’s recommendations, Pelosi deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill said in a statement that “the Speaker looks forward to General Honoré’s final assessment.”
In her own statement after meeting with Honoré, Pelosi said his initial assessment “covered operational readiness, interagency cooperation, security infrastructure and the morale and readiness of institutional staff.”
“As we consider the need for an emergency supplemental funding bill to meet institutional security needs, I want to thank the General for reviewing what is necessary for the Capitol Police to do their jobs,” Pelosi said.
The acting head of the US Capitol Police told congressional members during a closed-door briefing Tuesday that the “department failed to meet its own high standards” on January 6 when a crowd of pro-Trump rioters overran the Capitol building. Pittman called the insurrection a “terrorist attack” and offered her “sincerest apologies on behalf of the department,” according to her prepared remarks during a briefing for lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee with a number of agencies that had a role in security on January 6.
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Thursday.