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Security Threats Against Lawmakers Increase After Jan. 6 Insurrection

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Today, the House takes up bipartisan legislation to create a 9/11-style commission that will investigate the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. That's going to be followed by a vote tomorrow on a funding bill to increase Capitol security. The bill would change the way that Congress protects its members in Washington, D.C., and in their home districts. Threats against lawmakers have doubled since last year. NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales has more.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: California Democrat Luis Correa thought he was going to die at the January 6 insurrection, but the nightmare did not end there.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Are you a Democrat?

LOU CORREA: Yes. I am.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: You [expletive] rat.

GRISALES: A few days after the Capitol attack, the congressman was surrounded by an angry mob for several minutes, seen in a viral video from Dulles Airport, and he says it was not the first time.

CORREA: The situation in Dulles was very similar to other situations I've had.

GRISALES: Correa said at least past airport security, no one was armed, but that's been less clear in other close calls. As a result, he's changed security protocols for his offices and at home for his family, but he says he cannot not elaborate how.

CORREA: In Main Street - on Main Street, you really don't know what to expect.

GRISALES: Capitol Police say threats against members are now up more than 100% since the same time in 2020. Lawmakers say they have faced new confrontations in public, threatening letters and even some high-profile tense exchanges with each other. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi first raised the issue after the January riot as she talked about plans to consider new funding to protect lawmakers from what she characterized as the enemy within the chamber. It now included magnetometers installed just days earlier to screen lawmakers.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NANCY PELOSI: We have members of Congress who want to bring guns on the floor and have threatened violence on other members of Congress.

GRISALES: Now a major security supplemental measure would direct $22 million to ramp up security for members at the Capitol during travel and at home. Illinois Republican Rodney Davis, who was working from his district one day recently, said he has seen the threats upfront, and it is time to change the security posture for Capitol Police.

RODNEY DAVIS: This is the world we're living in, be it D.C. or be it here. So yes, I'm for making sure that the Capitol Police's mission includes protection of the complex and protection of those who work within or outside the complex.

GRISALES: In 2017, Davis was among a group of Republicans targeted in a shooting at a baseball field in Alexandria, Va., and more recently, an Illinois man was convicted for threatening to shoot Davis.

SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO: I just hate to see it come to this.

GRISALES: That's West Virginia Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito, who says she's disappointed that safety concerns have reached this level. Now she worries the security issues will put members and the Capitol in a bubble.

MOORE CAPITO: I'm hoping that we - where you need it, you can access it, and it's already like that now. If I need special help at home, the local law enforcement are called, and they help.

GRISALES: The increase in threats are to members of both sides of the aisle. But in recent weeks, the debate over security has devolved into a partisan issue, which means new safety measures could get derailed.

Claudia Grisales, NPR News, the Capitol.

(SOUNDBITE OF MATT JORGENSEN'S "DIALOGUE 2008") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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