SAN FRANCISCO (CBS) — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi suggested Thursday that there should be security for members of Congress when they gather in groups, regardless of whether a senior lawmaker is present.
“In the future, in light of what has happened, it seems self-evident that when the teams are practicing, there should be security there,” the California Democrat told reporters at her weekly news conference.
Her comment comes a day after a gunman opened fire at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia as Republican lawmakers practiced for Thursday’s annual congressional baseball game. The shooting wounded House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, two Capitol Police officers, Matt Mika, a Tyson Foods lobbyist and Zachary Barth, a staffer for Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas.
As of Thursday morning, Scalise was still in critical condition at a local Washington, D.C. hospital.
Pelosi noted that Democratic lawmakers were practicing at another field when the shooting unfolded Wednesday morning, and noted that there was “no security there” because neither she nor House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, are not on the team.
“Thank god Steve Scalise is on the team because security was there,” Pelosi said.
Republicans who witnessed the shooting credit Capitol Police with saving their lives. The security detail was only there because Scalise was there — plainclothes Capitol Police officers protect senior members of Congress. As House Majority Whip, Scalise generally travels in an armored SUV with two plainclothes Capitol Police officers with him.
“I do think — and I would support — and I have suggested they need a bigger budget,” Pelosi said Thursday about the Capitol Police. “Right now, they have a perimeter that they cover and these parks were outside the perimeter. That, maybe, really shouldn’t be the standard of what they secure.”
In the government funding package that Congress passed in late April, lawmakers approved more than $393 million in funding for the Capitol Police for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, which was an increase of more than $18 million above the previous year. Capitol Police have requested an 8 percent increase for fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1. That would bring the funding up to more than $426 million.
President Trump, however, proposed in his budget request that Congress implement cuts on the non-defense discretionary side of the budget, which covers Capitol Police.
Pelosi said Thursday that while security changes are “under discussion,” Capitol Police really has the final say over evaluating security needs. The minority leader doesn’t want an overwhelming law enforcement presence, though.
“You don’t really want to live in a world where there’s so many police monitoring everything that anybody does,” she said. “That would be an impossible task.”
Following an all members-briefing Wednesday after the shooting, Rep. Mark Walker, R-North Carolina, said there was discussion among lawmakers about using funds from their member accounts for security, but nothing final was decided.
Rep. Chris Collins, R-New York, said after the shooting Wednesday that he plans to start carrying around a pistol in public. Lawmakers, however, cannot bring firearms into the Capitol.
“If you look at the vulnerability, I assure you: I have a carry permit. I will be carrying when I’m out and about,” Collins said in a TV interview with WKBW.
Speaking to “CBS This Morning” on Thursday, Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, who twisted his ankle during the shooting, said he’d like to study the extent of security for Congress.
“I think, when you have a group of congressman, 25 or 30 congressmen in one group, we ought to study that as far as security,” he said. “Because that doesn’t make for a good situation if somebody has us in their harm’s way.”