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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Lawmakers debate costs of added security

WASHINGTON — Discussions over security for lawmakers and staff members in the wake of the Tucson killings quickly broke along partisan lines Wednesday as House members returned to work at the Capitol.

Democrats suggested that additional funding may be needed to beef up security in districts where lawmakers feel particularly exposed, while Republicans sought remedies largely without additional costs.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called for a security briefing for lawmakers, and officials said that a comprehensive review of the arrangements for representatives and their staffs is under way by the House Administration Committee.

Meanwhile, as many as 10 lawmakers have suggested they may carry personal firearms for protection, said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who will be among them.

“”I don’t think we need a special piece of legislation to protect members of Congress,”” said Chaffetz, who occasionally carries a semi-automatic Glock handgun while in his home district but does not plan to carry the gun in the capital. “”We don’t need to spend more money.””

Lawmakers considering several legislative proposals weighed an uneasy balance between protecting themselves and maintaining open access to their constituents after a shooting in Arizona Saturday critically injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., left six dead and wounded 13 others.

Several representatives, including Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., said they would press forward with plans this week for their own “”

“”Congress on Your Corner”” events, similar to the one held by Giffords.

As they did, there were new indications of the array of dangers faced by lawmakers.

The Justice Department announced that the FBI Wednesday morning arrested a Palm Springs, Calif., man on suspicion of threatening Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash. In voicemail messages last month, Charles Turner Haberman, 32, threatened to kill McDermott over his position during the tax cut debate, authorities said.

McDermott issued a statement saying he remains “”focused on serving my constituents.””

Democrats and Republicans met behind closed doors for their first full security briefing since Saturday’s shooting. Several lawmakers were circulating proposals for legislation to better protect their staff, particularly in their home districts where many lawmakers feel most exposed.

Rep. Jesse Jackson, D-Ill., sought to rescind a 5 percent cut to office budgets approved by an overwhelming vote in the House last week, while adding 10 percent for security, a proposal that is unlikely to advance in a Congress concerned with deficit spending. Cutting office budgets was an inaugural act of the new GOP-controlled House.

“”There are expenses associated with securing our district staffs,”” Jackson said. “”No American should ignore that basic fact.””

A potentially more modest spending proposal by some Democrats would provide funds for representatives who must reimburse local law enforcement for providing security at district events.

One proposal discussed by both Democrats and Republicans was to have the U.S. Marshal Service play an enhanced role investigating threats to members.

The House Administration Committee’s security overview will be ongoing, according to an aide to Rep. Daniel Lungren, R-Calif., the committee chairman.

House members attending the briefing described a widespread feeling of concern.

“”The mood was somber,”” said Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., emerging from the meeting. “”We have to get straight as to what we could be doing in terms of protecting our staff — not so much here, but back in the districts.””

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