Lawmakers returning to their districts for a week-long recess are skeptical that the civility seen after the shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., will carry over into their meetings with constituents.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting at the Republican charity baseball practice and the game, both parties called for renewed civility. But now, just over two weeks later, those hopes are fading fast as the GOP continues to anger Democrats by pushing for the repeal of Obamacare, and President Trump fired off a tweet criticizing two cable news hosts that drew criticism from both sides.
As a result, town hall meetings held over the next week could prove testy.
According to the Town Hall Project, 26 members have held or are slated to hold town hall events, including two Senate Republicans — Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., who held two on Friday, and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan. A third, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is attending town halls hosted by Concerned Veterans of America later in the week.
While rank-and-file members continue to hold out hope for civility, they are by no means optimistic and believe their hopes may just be wishful thinking.
"I just hope that in light of what we just experienced... that these town halls will go back to being civil events where people can express their opinions. But again, in a civil way," said Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., who said after the shooting that he and other members have not held town halls because they feared for their safety. Barletta didn't hesitate when asked if continued the hope for civility is realistic at these events.
"No. I don't," he said.
Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., said he has already seen a return to the fiery political rhetoric many denounced after the shooting, particularly on social media where people are "hiding behind their keyboards."
"The amount of caustic language is way too high," Brat told the Washington Examiner. "You won't believe your eyes. It's unbelievable."
But while the heightened rhetoric from voters hasn't died down, Brat said he's been encouraged by the sincerity of his Democratic colleagues.
"When they presented us with the baseball trophy, and [House Minority Leader Nancy] Pelosi got up and made remarks beyond what she had to, she made some genuinely sincere remarks, and that's encouraging," he said. "I hope it stays that way," he added.
The shooting led to calls for civility, but it also led to new questions about security for lawmakers as they're out in public.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has already floated the idea of beefing up taxpayer-funded Member's Representational Allowances, which are office budgets authorized by the House Administration Committee. McCarthy said he and fellow members were still working to determine whether the money from MRAs could be used for security costs, but it was an approach that earned lawmakers' backing.
"I do support that," Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz, told the Washington Examiner of the plan to boost to their budgets. "I think that's appropriate."
"We have to balance out two things, number one that we're elected by the public and we're out in the public a lot. We want to reach out. We want to be there," he said. "We have to balance that with the idea that you have to have security."
The House Administration Committee passed a resolution Tuesday providing an additional $25,000 to MRAs for 2017, and lawmakers will be able to use money in their MRAs to outfit district offices with bulletproof glass and panic buttons, or purchase bulletproof vests, for example.
Brat said the additional money was a welcome change.
"I don't think we've been sufficiently prepared in the past, and so, the hints were all there," he said. "I don't think it's rational to always have to wait for an action, but in this case it came in the form of that shooting. I think we're behind on our homework and assessment and implementation."
Meanwhile, leadership has not given any out-of-the-ordinary directives to members in the wake of the Scalise shooting. Instead, members are trusted to do as they see fit to protect themselves.
Following the shooting, Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., said that he plans to carry a gun with him to public events. Others will rely on local officials and law enforcement.
"What leadership has said is look, you all know where you're from. Be aware of who's around you. If you see something is different, be aware of it," said Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa. "Also, I think more than anything else, if we let local law enforcement know we're going to have a town hall, that's always the best way to make sure you're secure. They know the area better than anybody else."
"I feel completely safe," he added.