Bipartisan resolution aims to protect lawmakers amid heightened threats of violence

Bipartisan resolution aims to protect lawmakers amid heightened threats of violence
© Greg Nash

An unlikely pair of House lawmakers joined forces this week to introduce a resolution to bolster the security of Congress members, who face heightened threats of violence in an era of supercharged partisanship.

Reps. Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenHouse sets up Monday hearing to hear evidence on Trump impeachment The Hill's Morning Report - Dem dilemma on articles of impeachment Democrats debate scope of impeachment charges MORE (Texas), a liberal Democrat, and David SchweikertDavid SchweikertLive updates on impeachment: Schiff fires warning at GOP over whistleblower Ethics Committee releases new details on allegations against Arizona GOP lawmaker GOP lawmakers call for provisions barring DOD funds for border wall to be dropped MORE (Ariz.), a conservative Republican, maintain that more funding is needed to protect lawmakers, who are confronting a surge in violent threats this year.

"In the past, some of these credible threats of violence and death have resulted in physical attacks against Members, their staff, and the public around them," Green said in a statement.

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The resolution arrives several weeks after freshman Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarAl Green calls for including Trump's 'racism' in impeachment articles Republicans disavow GOP candidate who said 'we should hang' Omar Hillicon Valley: Trump officials propose retaliatory tariffs over French digital tax | FBI classifies FaceApp as threat | Twitter revamps policies to comply with privacy laws | Zuckerberg defends political ads policy MORE (D-Minn.), a Somali native who was naturalized as a teenager, faced a wave of threats when a crowd in North Carolina at a rally for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrumps light 97th annual National Christmas Tree Trump to hold campaign rally in Michigan 'Don't mess with Mama': Pelosi's daughter tweets support following press conference comments MORE led chants of “send her back.”

The episode sparked long-simmering fears on Capitol Hill that lawmakers simply don't have adequate resources to ensure their safety, nor that of those in their immediate orbit.

“Ensuring our families and staff are safe is always on our mind as members of Congress,” Schweikert said, adding that the resolution helps put in place previous recommendations from the U.S. Capitol Police.

Testifying before Congress last month, Steven Sund, who heads the Capitol Police, gave plenty of reason for the heightened concern, revealing that incidents of threatening communications targeting lawmakers, their families and staff "has increased three-fold over the past few years."

"Over the past five years, the number of threat assessment cases that we have opened and investigated has been steadily increasing," he said.

The threat of violence against lawmakers was manifest in horrific fashion in the summer of 2017, when Republican Whip Rep. Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseRepublicans disavow GOP candidate who said 'we should hang' Omar Nunes accuses Democrats of promoting 'conspiracy theories' Pressure grows on House GOP leaders to hold line ahead of impeachment trial MORE (La.) was shot while practicing for the congressional baseball game at a ballfield in suburban Virginia.

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Three others, including a congressional aide and a Capitol Police officer, were injured. The gunman, a 66-year-old with an SKS rifle, appeared to have targeted the group because they were Republicans.

Schweikert's state of Arizona has its own tragic history of lawmaker shootings. In 2011, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) was shot and nearly killed at an outreach event in her Tucson district.

And Green has a troubling experience with death threats as well. A member of the Congressional Black Caucus, he was targeted in 2017 after floating the idea of impeaching Trump. Among the attacks were voicemails threatening to lynch him. In response, two Capitol Police officers were dispatched to Houston.

Citing the Scalise and Giffords shootings explicitly, the Green-Schweikert resolution calls for a hike in the representational allowance of every lawmaker "in response to these increased threats."

The measure does not specify a rate of increase, calling only for "such amount as necessary."

"We must ensure adequate protection before any threat becomes a fatal reality," Green said.