Tensions flare between House Republicans, Capitol Police over metal detectors
Tensions flared Tuesday evening between a handful of House Republicans and the Capitol Police over new metal detectors that were placed outside the House chamber in the wake of the attack on the Capitol.
The lawmakers were heard by reporters complaining about the detectors and railing against Democrats as they tried to enter the House chamber to vote, saying they were not consulted by Democratic leadership about the decision to install the devices.
“You’re taking valuable resources completely away from where it needs to be, and you guys did it without any consultation with the minority,” Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) shouted at House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) before calling the detectors “bullshit.”
“You are creating a problem you do not understand the ramifications of,” Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) yelled at the police manning the detectors, shouting at them to “get back” and “don’t touch me.”
Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who has touted her desire to carry her Glock pistol in the Capitol, was also seen by a reporter setting off a detector and refusing to turn her bag over to the police for inspection.
While it was not immediately clear what the confrontation with the officers was about, Boebert later tweeted, "I am legally permitted to carry my firearm in Washington, D.C. and within the Capitol complex" and that the detectors are "just another political stunt by Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi" that wouldn't have prevented last week's riots.
A Democratic lawmaker fired back at Boebert's remark, telling The Hill the detectors were not intended to stop a riot and are instead meant to block lawmakers from bringing firearms into the House chamber - something Boebert has said she could do.
The detectors are "to keep the jackasses from carrying guns into the chamber," said the Democratic lawmaker. "We've already got one member who's announced she wants to bring one in there."
The Republican criticism marked the latest source of tension in a Capitol that has already been rocked by last week’s deadly riots and this week’s impeachment proceedings in the House, which are kicking off Tuesday night.
The metal detectors were installed Tuesday to screen everyone — including lawmakers — before entering the House chamber. The devices are the latest defense system to be set up after last week’s violent mob stormed the Capitol, overwhelming police and killing at least one officer.
“To ensure compliance with Capitol Police Board regulations concerning firearms and incendiary devices, as well as to provide a safe and secure environment in which to conduct legislative business, effective immediately, all persons, including Members, are required [to] undergo security screening when entering the House chamber,” acting House Sergeant-at-Arms Timothy Blodgett wrote in a notice.
The metal detectors are set up at select entrances to the chamber, according to Blodgett, who added that “failure to complete screening or the carrying of prohibited items could result in denial of access to the Chamber.”
Republicans panned the measure Tuesday as unnecessary and claimed they were left out of the decision to set up the detectors.
“They’re impeding the ability of members to come and vote,” said House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), adding that there were detectors at various other points throughout the Capitol complex. “They were strictly designed to impede the ability for members to come and vote. This is our job. This was never discussed by anybody, you don’t make a major change like this.”
“For members of Congress to enter the floor of the U.S. House, we now have to go through intense security measures, on top of the security we already go through. These new provisions include searches and being wanded like criminals. We now live in Pelosi’s communist America!” added Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.).
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), a conservative firebrand who heads the House Freedom Caucus, said the detectors were “crap” and “the stupidest thing” as he encountered them.
Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.) called on House Republicans to “formally protest” and said that “forcing the Capitol Police to not allow Members onto the House floor without a “security” checkpoint is unconstitutional.”
Ultimately, roughly 10 lawmakers were seen bypassing the detectors and walking into the chamber, raising questions as to the devices’ efficacy, particularly given officers’ hesitancy to restrain House members.
The Capitol Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill regarding the complaints.
The GOP grousing over the detectors comes as Capitol Police and the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms look to ramp up security around the Capitol in preparation for next week’s inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Law enforcement appeared woefully unprepared for last week’s mob and have been inundated with bipartisan criticism since the lethal riot. Since then, a 7-foot “non-scalable fence” was erected along the perimeter of the Capitol, and the Pentagon authorized the National Guard to deploy up to 15,000 Guard members for support on Inauguration Day.