Bulletproof Vests, Security Guards Approved for House Members

Hiring a security detail is “an ordinary and necessary reimbursable expense,” the new guidelines say

House Administration Chairman Gregg Harper, shown here in November, had a busy Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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

The resolution also allows members to hire security personnel for events such as town halls, to guard their district offices during business hours, and to accompany them on official business. 

Paying a security detail for those reasons is now considered “an ordinary and necessary reimbursable expense,” according to the new guidelines.

Security expenditures over $500 must be added to offices’ inventories. 

The changes to the Members’ Congressional Handbook come after a gunman opened fire at the Republican baseball practice last summer and wounded five, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana. 

They also come amid a national debate on gun violence sparked by the Valentine’s Day shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. A former student roamed the halls there with an AR-15, killing 17 people.

Watch: Students March for Gun Control

The House Administration 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 committee also moved Tuesday to solidify new guidelines on sexual harassment. The resolution officially bars the use of office funds, formally known as Members’ Representational Allowances, to pay settlements related to behavior prohibited by the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act, which includes sexual harassment.

A separate resolution blocks 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.

A handful of the proposals touch on federal elections.

The panel wants to eliminate taxpayer funding of presidential campaigns through the Federal Election Commission’s Presidential Election Campaign fund.

It also wants to 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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