House Democrats have approved a $1.9 billion bill to further fortify the once-open Capitol with “retractable” fencing and “quick response” security personnel in response to the incursion into the complex on January 6 following a contentious election.
The 213-212 partisan vote comes the day after House Democrats approved the formation of a 9/11-style commission focused on the January 6 event, which Republicans also opposed, with some noting how the violent riots of last summer in cities across the country — including D.C. — have not come under scrutiny.
The Associated Press (AP) reported on the development, calling the January event “the most violent domestic attack on Congress in history.”
Five people died on that day but only one — Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt — was killed at the riot after an unidentified Capitol Police officer shot her as she was entering the Capitol through a broken window.
The four other people — including a Capitol Police officer — died from medical conditions.
And, in fact, on March 1, 1954, three men and a woman were seated in the House gallery ahead of a vote before the visitors — later identified as members of the Puerto Rico Nationalist Party supportive of the U.S. territory’s independence — started shooting:
The Capitol had few security protocols at the time, and the four Puerto Rican nationalists entered the gallery armed with handguns. Around 2:30 p.m. they indiscriminately opened fire onto the House Floor and unfurled a Puerto Rican flag in a violent act of protest meant to draw attention to their demand for Puerto Rico’s immediate independence.
Five Congressmen were wounded in the shooting. Members, House Pages, and police officers quickly helped detain three of the assailants outside the gallery, while the fourth escaped the Capitol and was apprehended later that afternoon.
To commemorate the 65th anniversary of this event in 2019, the Office of the House Historian collected oral histories with eyewitnesses, including House staff, Pages, and police officers. Listen to firsthand accounts that describe the surprise attack in detail and the shocked reaction by people there that day. These stories serve as important reminders of the need to ensure the safety of the House while preserving the accessible relationship between elected Representatives and their constituents.
AP reported on the left’s effort to seal off the Capitol from the American people:
The idea of bolstered security at the Capitol saddened many lawmakers who said they see no other choice because of the ongoing threats on Congress. Several leading liberal Democrats opposed the security money over concerns about policing, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders worked the floor during votes to ensure passage.
Already, National Guard troops have been protecting the building for months and public access is severely limited. Though razor-wire-topped fencing that stood as a stark reminder of the siege has been removed, an extended perimeter fence remains in place, cutting off access to the lush grounds popular with the public.
Senate Democrats will not be able to pass either bill on their own in the evenly split 50-50 Senate and could have trouble persuading enough Republicans to vote with them after Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell announced he would oppose the inquiry. Ten GOP senators would need to join Democrats to meet the 60-vote threshold needed to advance legislation. Changes could be made to win over their support.
Other security enhancements called for in the bill include fortified windows and doors, new security vestibules and cameras, and protection for lawmakers not only in D.C. but in their home states.
Republicans argue that Congress should be investing money to secure the U.S. border with Mexico not the Capitol.
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