Lawmakers face threats of violence from an “enemy” within Congress, and more money is needed to protect them, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says, a startling acknowledgment of escalating internal tensions over safety since this month's Capitol attack by supporters of former President Donald Trump.
The California Democrat's remarks Thursday came as the acting chief of the Capitol Police said separately that “vast improvements" are needed to protect the Capitol and adjacent office buildings, including permanent fencing.
Such barricades have ringed the complex since the deadly January 6 riot, but many lawmakers have long resisted giving the nation's symbol of democracy the look of a besieged compound, and leaders were noncommittal about the idea.
Pelosi focused her comments on the anxiety and partisan frictions that have persisted in Congress since Trump supporters' assault on the Capitol, which led to five deaths. She told reporters she thinks Congress will need to provide money “for more security for members, when the enemy is within the House of Representatives, a threat that members are concerned about.”
Asked to clarify what she meant, Pelosi said, “It means that we have members of Congress who want to bring guns on the floor and have threatened violence on other members of Congress.” She did not suggest how much money might be needed.
Some lawmakers who voted for this month's House impeachment of Trump have reported receiving threats, and initial moves to enhance safety procedures have taken on clear partisan undertones. Some Republicans have loudly objected to having to pass through newly installed metal detectors before entering the House chamber, while Pelosi has proposed fining lawmakers who bypass the devices.
Pelosi did not say whom she meant by her reference to an “enemy" within the House, and a spokesperson provided no examples when asked.
First-term Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who has expressed support for baseless QAnon conspiracy theories, has liked Facebook posts that advocated for violence against Democrats and the FBI. One post suggested shooting Pelosi in the head.
Asked to comment, Greene sent a written statement accusing Democrats and journalists of attacking her because she is “a threat to their goal of Socialism" and supports Trump and conservative values.
Earlier this month, the HuffPost website reported that Republican Andy Harris, R-Md., set off a newly installed metal detector while trying to enter the House chamber and was found to be carrying a concealed gun. Other Republicans have also talked about carrying firearms, which lawmakers are permitted to do, though not on the House or Senate floors.
Since the attack, the Capitol grounds have been surrounded by barrier fences and patrolled by National Guard troops. Yogananda D. Pittman, acting chief of the Capitol Police, said in a statement that based on security assessments by her agency and others, some changes should be lasting.
“In light of recent events, I can unequivocally say that vast improvements to the physical security infrastructure must be made to include permanent fencing, and the availability of ready, back-up forces in close proximity to the Capitol," said Pittman, whose agency provides security for Congress.
Pelosi took no immediate stance about Pittman's proposal for permanent fencing. Drew Hammill, the speaker's spokesperson, said she would await a Capitol security review led by retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré “to understand what infrastructure changes are necessary.”