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Secret Service prostitution scandal dominates Washington’s conversation

Fallout from the Secret Service prostitution scandal dominated the Sunday morning talk shows, with members of both parties defending Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan but warning that problems at the agency must be ferreted out to restore trust in the group.

Six Secret Service agents have resigned or retired after it was exposed some members of President Obama’s advance detail hired prostitutes during an ahead of a presidential visit to the country. Eleven agents and nine members of the U.S. military have been implicated in the scandal. Both the House and Senate have opened investigations into the matter.

{mosads}”I would expect within a very near future to have several other Secret Service agents leaving the agency of those 11,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said his concern was fixing the Secret Service culture. 

“Obviously nobody believes that something with 11 or 12 people involved couldn’t have happened before,” Issa said. “The real point is will we have confidence that it will never happen again, particularly for nationals having access to our men and women in the Secret Service.”

Oversight Committee ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said that the Secret Service scandal has raised concerns about whether enemies of the state might try to attack President Obama in the near future.

“It’s not only important that you be excellent, but we also don’t want people to even imagine that they can pierce the shield of the Secret Service,” House Oversight Committee ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It bothers me a lot because I know that there are a lot of folks who are perhaps looking for opportunities to do harm to the president or others the the Secret Service guards … Will they think that there’s a moment of weakness? That’s the time that they may think that they can act.”

“For the Secret Service to go forward the cancer must be carved out,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) on CBS’s “Face The Nation.” Jackson Lee called for for “zero tolerance” for anyone involved in the scandal.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said the Obama administration had handled the scandal well so far and warned against dramatizing the issue.

“The important thing is we not allow an overreaction that would do more damage to the Secret Service,” he said.

Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) worried that the latest Secret Service member to be suspended had been staying in the same hotel that Obama was going to be in. “Now you’re into the hotel where the president of the United States was going to stay. It just gets more troubling,” he said. 

Lieberman, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, called for the White House to investigate whether any of its staffers were mixed up in the affair, which to this point has only implicated Secret Service and U.S. military personnel.

“There’s no evidence (of White House involvement), but I don’t know that the Secret Service is actually investigating that question,” Lieberman said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’d say it’s a reasonable question and that the White House ought to be conducting its own internal investigation of White House personnel who were in Cartagena, just to make sure that none of them were involved in this kind of inappropriate behavior.” 

Lieberman’s questions follow a letter from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) that asked if any White House staffers were involved. 

All of the members of Congress praised Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan for reacting quickly and decisively to the burgeoning scandal.

“I know he’s on the case. He’s committed. He’s working hard,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said on ABC’s “This Week,” while cautioning that all the facts were not known yet. “Let’s see his report. The president is standing behind him and will look at his report and make a decision.”

“Based on everything I’ve seen so far,” King said, “I have full confidence in him.”

David Axelrod, a top Obama campaign adviser, said the president has confidence in Sullivan and thinks he should keep his job.

Maloney and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee, called for the Secret Service to recruit more women.

“I can’t help but wonder if there’d been more women as part of that detail if this ever would have happened,” Collins said on ABC.

Maloney pointed out that the Secret Service was only 11 percent female.

“I can’t help but keep asking this question: Where are the women?” she said. “We probably need to diversify the Secret Service and have more minorities and more women.”

Tags Charles Grassley Sheila Jackson Lee Susan Collins Tom Coburn

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