U.S. Capitol Police beef up security ahead of Biden’s State of the Union address
U.S. Capitol Police are stepping up security for President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address to Congress next week, including adding a non-scalable fence around the Capitol grounds, according to two sources familiar with the planes.
Police Department intelligence officials warned in an email distributed to the force on Friday that the threat level remains high ahead of Biden’s annual speech scheduled for Tuesday night.
While there are no credible threats specific to the event, the Capitol Police Bulletin notes that “recent incidents targeting politicians and law enforcement over the past month indicate that there there is an increased threat to government officials.”
The heightened security comes as some Democrats say they are concerned about the safety of the president, dignitaries and others attending the address and lawmakers verbally argued about guns on the Capitol grounds after that the magnetometers have been removed from the entrance to the chamber of the Chamber.
Earlier this week, after the issue was raised during a committee hearing, a House attorney reminded fellow Republicans that firearms are prohibited on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, except for members of the Congress in their personal offices.
“I wanted to remind everyone that since 1967, long-standing federal statutes … and Capitol Police Commission regulations have generally prohibited the possession of firearms on the Capitol campus,” the author wrote. general counsel for the Republican-led House Administration Committee in an email to GOP Staff.
The State of the Union marks the first major test of the Capitol Police Board of the 118th Congress, the Capitol police oversight body, which is now divided into parties. It also follows a series of high-profile threats and violence against political figures, including the brutal attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
While each side of the Capitol building may operate under separate security rules — as they currently do with Republicans controlling the House side and Democrats the Senate — the Senate and House Sergeants-at-Arms are consulted. on campus-wide issues.
Split views on security came into focus last month when House Speaker Kevin McCarthy removed the magnetometers leading to the House floor. The metal detectors, installed after the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, were a sore spot for Republicans who felt it was a largely meaningless security measure.
The problem resurfaced this week.
On Wednesday, more than a dozen Democrats led by Rep. Jared Huffman of California wrote to House and Senate leaders seeking attention on security.
“We write with urgent concern for the safety and security of the President, other dignitaries and guests during the upcoming State of the Union address,” the Democrats said in the letter. Citing the removal of magnetometers and threats against lawmakers, they wrote that “the security of the House complex today is precarious.”
And at a contentious meeting of the House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday, Huffman pushed for a rule explicitly banning guns from a committee room.
Members of Congress and others are already prohibited from carrying firearms on the floor of the House, where the State of the Union is delivered, law enforcement sources noted.
A law enforcement source said lawmakers won’t undergo any additional checks before entering the House chamber for Biden’s address. Another source pointed out that the magnetometers outside the chamber of the House had been removed for the last two presidential addresses – the joint session in 2021 and the State of the Union in 2022.
The State of the Union is considered a “special national security event,” a designation that puts the U.S. Secret Service in charge of much of the planning and frees up significant resources for security plans. The Capitol Police control most security apparatus on the Capitol grounds in cooperation with the Secret Service and other agencies.
Capitol police declined to outline specific security plans.
“For security reasons, we cannot provide the public with details of potential security measures or potential resources that are dedicated to protecting members of Congress,” a department spokesperson told CNN.
Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the USSS is “working closely with all partners to ensure the maximum level of security during the State of the Union.” To maintain the integrity of our operations, we will not discuss details regarding the means or methods of protection used during national security special events.