WASHINGTON--Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) will ask new GOP House leaders to increase members operating budgets in order to pay for more security in their districts, a proposal made in the wake of the Saturday Tucson shooting spree that left 14 wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Az.), and six dead.
Jackson stressed in an interview with the Sun-Times that after the 9-11 attacks the Capitol, embassies, military bases and federal buildings were physically fortified--but lawmakers work out of offices with no special protections.
Jackson said lawmakers after the "horrid tragedy" that "shocks the conscience" may need money for surveillance cameras, better locks--or even higher rent, if they need to move their offices to more secure locations.
In addition, more security may be needed at district town hall meetings--and Jackson said local governments sending in police protection should not have to pay the tab.
The massacre took place while Giffords was holding a "Congress on your Corner" session in the parking lot of a Safeway store.
Last week, the new Republican-controlled House voted to trim members budgets by five percent--Jackson was one of 13 to vote no--and he will face an uphill battle to succeed in his quest to get that money restored. On top of that, he wants a 10 percent hike to pay for more security costs. Cutting congressional spending is a top GOP priority.
Brendon Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the leaders would be hesitant to restore the members allowance funding cut last week--and suggested that if more money was needed for security, it would be spent through the Capitol Police--not by individual lawmakers.
If members have security concerns they should "bring it up to the Capitol Police and the Sergeant of Arms," Buck said. "If there is a there is a "compelling case" the Speaker will consider it, he said.
The violence has sparked discussion of how to step up security. But the issue is not security on Capitol Hill.
"We don't need another dollar securing the Capitol," Jackson said. "We do a great job on that, creating a fortress in Washington."
A lone gunman shooting his way into the Capitol on July 24, 1998, killing two Capitol Hill police officers, helped provide justification for Congress to build an underground visitors--for $800 million-- to screen people better before they entered the Capitol.
(ck from here) Senate sergeant-at-arms, Terry Gainer, former chief of the Capitol Police and former director of the Illinois State Police, agreed in an ABC interview that enhanced security on Capitol Hill is not needed.
"I think we have been on guard, especially since 2001. In the districts, we're going to meet Wednesday with all of the 454 offices the senators have around there and the Senate staff and explain to them the simple ways to plan for an event and do an analysis of what law enforcement efforts they may need."
Still, said Gainer, "I've got tell you, if I had been called Friday before this particular event, had the same set of circumstances laid out to me; that it would have been in a parking lot, a meet-and-greet, a few people there, not a controversial subject, no known threats to the member, I probably wouldn't have done anything but talked to the local police and had them stop by and take a look."