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Federal lawmakers approve millions in additional spending on security for themselves

By KATHERINE TULLY-McMANUS
Reuters

February 28. 2018 11:39AM




WASHINGTON - House lawmakers can now use taxpayer funds to buy bulletproof vests and other security equipment, under a resolution approved by voice vote Tuesday by the House Administration Committee.

The resolution also allows members to hire security personnel for member-hosted district events like town halls, to be stationed inside and outside their district offices during business hours, and to accompany them on official business.


The committee has jurisdiction over the internal procedures and operation of the House, and its resolutions do not need approval from the full body to be enacted.

The changes to the Members' Congressional Handbook come in the wake of heightened fears about member security after a gunman opened fire at the Republican baseball practice in June and wounded five, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.
Security expenditures over $500 must now be added to offices' inventories.

The resolution also officially prohibits the use of office funds, formally known as Members' Representational Allowances, to pay settlements related to behavior prohibited under the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act, which includes sexual harassment.

A separate resolution, also cleared by voice vote, bars the use of committee funds to pay harassment or discrimination settlements.

Meanwhile, the panel approved its fiscal 2019 budget views and estimates letter, which includes expected costs for anti-harassment training and the new Office of Employee Advocacy.

The document includes the estimated $3.75 million cost, beginning in fiscal 2018, for development and implementation of mandatory anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training for House members and employees.

"Every case of sexual harassment is one too many," Chairman Gregg Harper of Mississippi told the panel.

The House adopted a resolution in November that mandated training for all House members and staff. The committee then adopted a set of regulations governing fulfillment of the training, including that it must be in person, have options for reporting complaints even from a bystander and allow trainees to ask questions anonymously.

The cost to establish the Office of Employee Advocacy is estimated at $600,000. The new office, mandated in a resolution passed Feb. 6, will be tasked with providing free legal services to employees on Capitol Hill and district offices.

The views and estimates letter, submitted to the Budget Committee, outlines the spending needs for programs under the panel's jurisdiction. It includes a proposal to eliminate taxpayer funding of presidential campaigns through the Federal Election Commission's Presidential Election Campaign fund and end funding for the Election Assistance Commission, which develops guidance to meet Help America Vote Act requirements and certifies voting systems.


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