Many US citizens watched in complete disbelief as the news broke about substantial Congress security spending. Both the Democrats and Republicans spent significant amounts of money after the deadly Capitol riot on January 6, 2021.
As published by various media outlets, Democratic senators Raphael Warnock and Mark Kelly spent USD 130,000 and 115,000. In the opposite political camp, Trump’s former backers Josh Hawley and Jim Jordan spent USD 46,061 and 25,000, respectively. All cite an alarming spike in death threats due to their involvement in Trump’s second impeachment trial earlier this year.
Senators Mitt Romney and Pat Toomey, who voted to convict Trump, spent USD 46,000 and 70,000 to fortify their homes.
Apart from shaking the American public to its core, this spending brought attention to the strict rules that govern personal security costs for Congressional members. Top members of the Democratic and Republican parties stated that they are looking into proposing a security funding package. Since lawmakers have their limits in spending official budgets, this likely billion-dollar package could do the trick.
Although security personnel and bulletproof vests for town halls are allowed, security systems for a member’s home and bodyguards for nonofficial travel usually aren’t.
Even though much of the violence took place in the Capitol, protestors also harassed junior and senior lawmakers outside their homes or district offices. Furthermore, there were threats to harm members of their families.
Capitol Police at D.C.-area airports provided lawmakers with protection when they traveled. However, many stated that it wasn’t enough to feel safe, with most citing their fear for their families.
Potential Solutions to Intimidated Congress Members
The US Congress has 535 members, and it would be exceptionally difficult to provide round-the-clock security for all of them. For this reason, the amount of USD 65,000 was given to each congressional office for security-related expenses.
Retired Army Lieutenant General Russel Honoré suggested a so-called member allowance for funding protection such as residential security systems. The retired army general said that the responsible authorities should assign protective details for lawmakers outside of leadership.
However, it seems striking that many politically vulnerable lawmakers fear that the use of official funds for security could fall prey to manipulation back home. Actually, many of them state how their constituents could quickly think of state-of-the-art camera systems as a home improvement project than a taxpayer need.
All in all, this issue is yet to reach the final epilogue.
The Aftershocks on Congress Security Spending
Another contested issue was whether lawmakers could use campaign fundraising for security purposes. By late March, the Federal Elections Agency responded, formally stating that lawmakers can hire bodyguards with their campaign money.
Although an enormous relief for members of Congress, this is still not seen as the solution to the problem. FEC is now exploring how officials can spend campaign money to address security concerns.
Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, who voted to approve the final ruling on the matter, said: “I’ve never thought of us as a country where the leadership of the country had to be surrounded by armed guards and needed to keep the public at arm’s length at all times.”
The message related to congress security spending resonated with many members of the American public.
On a different note, the same responsible authority determined that candidates can only spend campaign funds on “bona fide, legitimate, professional personal security personnel.” It seemed important to mention this since some Congress members were reportedly planning to surround themselves with far-right, paramilitary militia groups.
Republican Tim Ryan, whose spending panel oversees Capitol security funding, said this: “It’s just crazy that we’re even having this conversation, but it’s the reality of what we’re living in.”
Fearing repercussions even months after Trump had left office, senators say they could again become targets of politically motivated violence.