The District of Columbia’s member of Congress announced legislation Monday that would ban authorities from building a permanent fence around the complex, calling it outdated and offensive “security theater.”
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, said she’s already expressed her opposition to a fence to acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman, who after the Jan. 6 attack said the time has come for a border wall to be built to protect the complex.
“In the year 2021, we should not be relying on security theater based on 19th-century ideas when state-of-the-art options and old-fashioned preparation and cooperation among security forces could have prevented the events of January 6,” the congresswoman said in a statement.
She said a fence would “wall off the Capitol like a fortress” from the tourists, school groups and voters who visit each day.
A temporary fence, manned by armed National Guard troops, went up in the days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by pro-Trump supporters.
Chief Pittman, testifying about the tragic security lapses that allowed a mob to take control of the Capitol, said it’s time to have a permanent barrier and “back-up forces” stationed nearby.
She said security experts have called for a wall as far back as 2006.
The idea recoils many members of Congress from both parties, who say lawmakers’ accessibility is a hallmark of the most democratic branch of the federal government.
The Capitol has already seen a massive security buildup in the 20 years since the 2001 terrorist attacks, with streets once open to traffic now closed, and building entrances barricaded.
House Democrats have also imposed new rules for access to their chamber, including new metal detectors to screen even lawmakers seeking to enter.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month said Congress will need to approve a significant increase in security money for itself. But she said she was worried about fellow lawmakers, or what she called “the enemy” she said was “within the House of Representatives.
The debate over Congress fencing itself in comes even as lawmakers are still raging at each other over former President Donald Trump’s wall along portions of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Congress has approved billions of dollars for that, though the new Biden administration has announced a pause in construction.
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