Threats involving disillusioned political followers became a reality when congressional Republicans were shot at during a practice for a benefit baseball game earlier this summer. The House is granting funds for extra measures to address security concerns, but public officials are not being handed a blank check.
The days are gone for lawmakers to perform their official duties in public without security. A gunman, who had posted his displeasure with the current government on Facebook, shot four people at the GOP baseball practice in Alexandria, VA, on June 14, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana), a staffer for Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas), a Tyson Foods lobbyist, and a member of Scalise’s Capitol Police security detail.
Other GOP members at the practice acknowledged that the scene would have been much worse had it not been for the presence of Scalise’s security detail who were recognized for wounding the shooter. The gunman later died. The event led to calls for enhanced security from members of both parties.
Two weeks after the shooting, on June 27, the Committee on House Administration passed a measure that grants lawmakers an extra $25,000 to pay for security needs in 2017.
“Our congressional community was impacted by a terrible, senseless attack committed by an armed gunman who opened fire at a practice for the annual Congressional Baseball Game. We are grateful for the heroic efforts displayed by Special Agents Crystal Griner and David Bailey, who selflessly acted to protect the lives of all those on the ball field,” said Committee on House Administration Chairman Gregg Harper (R-Mississippi).
“Our committee has been listening to Members and their concerns regarding the safety of their constituents, staffers, as well as themselves. The safety and security of everyone is our highest priority,” Harper said in a statement following the passage of H.Res.411, a resolution providing additional funds to the Members’ Representational Allowance.
“In consultation with House Leadership, House Sergeant at Arms, U.S. Capitol Police, and House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Yoder, I introduced this resolution, with bipartisan support, to provide an important increase to each Member’s Representational Allowance for security. Each Member will receive an additional $25,000 in their office’s 2017 budget to address security concerns related to their official duties,” Harper’s statement said.
The funds allocated by the resolution are available to House members through Jan. 2, 2018, however, a week after the resolution was signed The House Administration Committee issued guidance to lawmakers to clarify permissible use of the Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA), to pay for security while conducting official business.
Under the new guidelines, members will need approval from the House Sergeant at Arms for security equipment like surveillance cameras, access control or alarm systems that cost more than $10,000. No preapproval is necessary for security equipment costing less than $10,000, but it must be purchased from a vendor cleared by the House sergeant at arms.
Security officer personnel for members public appearances at events and town hall meetings or at lawmakers district offices, as well as bulletproof vests and security training sessions for members and staff are qualifying, reimbursable expenses. MRA funds cannot be used to help secure lawmakers’ personal residences.