The Federal Election Commission will consider Thursday whether members of Congress can use campaign funds to pay for home security systems following last month's shooting at the GOP's baseball practice.
Commissioners will meet Thursday at 10 a.m. to decide whether to allow members of the House and Senate to use up to $15,000 in campaign funds to install or upgrade residential security systems if there are "reasonably specific and ongoing" threats of harm, and if the threat has been assessed by Capitol Police, according to a proposed interim enforcement policy submitted Tuesday.
"The request is being made in light of the current threat environment faced by our elected officials, most recently demonstrated by the severe wounding of Representative Steve Scalise and three other individuals by a gunman on June 14, 2017," the proposed policy states. "This tragic incident serves as a grave reminder that individuals who serve the public as elected representatives may be targeted for threats and/or violence, which would not otherwise occur but for their service in that capacity."
The FEC's consideration of the matter stems from a letter Paul Irving, the House sergeant at arms, sent to the FEC after last month's shooting asking the commission to advise on whether members could use campaign funds to buy security systems.
In a letter to FEC Chairman Steven Walther, Irving said the U.S. Capitol Police investigated 950 threatening messages directed at members of Congress from Jan. 1 to June 21, when his letter was sent.
Last year, Capitol Police investigated 902 threating messages.
"The increased use of social media has created a new avenue for individuals with ill intent to publish threatening communications directed toward members of the House of Representatives," Irving wrote. "The anonymous nature of these postings make it particularly challenging for the United States Capitol Police, and it's imperative that we do everything possible to protect our elected representatives."
Members of Congress backed Irving's request, and Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., who chairs the House Administration Committee, told the FEC on Wednesday that the "threat environment" facing lawmakers had changed, with threats occurring with more frequency and less forewarning.
"In this new threat environment, members must, as a result of their positions, take steps to protect themselves and their families to prevent tragedies like those in Arizona and Virginia," Harper wrote in a letter to Lisa Stevenson, the FEC's acting general counsel. "Accordingly, the threats that members of Congress face because of their federal office cause them to incur an expense that would not occur but for their federal office under the statute."
The FEC has been faced with the question of whether to allow members to use campaign funds for home security before.
In September 2011, the commission unanimously voted to allow then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., to use money raised for her campaign to enhance security around her house.
Giffords, who was shot in the head in January 2011, wanted to use the money to improve the lighting outside of her house and its locks, and install a "duress alarm button."
The issue of lawmakers' security was thrust into the spotlight again last month after a gunman, identified as James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Ill., opened fire on a group of Republicans who were practicing for the annual congressional baseball game in Alexandria, Va.
Scalise, who serves as the House majority whip, was shot in the left hip. Three others — Capitol Police Special Agent Crystal Griner, Tysons Food lobbyist Matt Mika, and congressional staffer Zack Barth — were also shot.
Hodgkinson, 66, was killed after Griner and fellow Capitol Police Special Agent David Bailey exchanged gunfire with him.
In the wake of the shooting, the House passed a resolution allocating an additional $25,000 to lawmakers' office budgets to be used for security expenses.