When Retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré briefed House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy about security enhancements his task force would be recommending in the wake of the January 6, 2021, attack, Honoré told CNN McCarthy was skeptical about the need for more Capitol Police officers.

“At the time when I debriefed him, his opinion was they just need better management, they don’t need more officers,” Honoré said.

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Honoré’s report, which was completed in March 2021 at the request of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, called for a variety of security improvements including 854 new hires to US Capitol Police. McCarthy voted against the first version of a security supplemental that incorporated much of Honoré’s recommendations in May 2021 but voted for a much paired down final version that became law in July of that year.

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Honoré’s encounter, which has not been previously reported, underscores the challenges facing Congress as they grapple with whether and how to provide more security to lawmakers and their families amid an uptick in violent threats and an increasingly toxic political environment – long-simmering fears that were only exacerbated after last week’s attack against the House speaker’s husband, Paul Pelosi.

Lawmakers have at times been divided over whether providing more money to the Capitol’s law enforcement agency, the leadership of which came under scrutiny for its response to the January 6 attack, is enough to solve the problem. On Wednesday, Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, the chairwoman of the House Administration Committee who overseas US Capitol Police demanded answers from USCP Chief Tom Manger about the protection of congressional lawmakers following the break-in at Pelosi’s San Francisco home.

Sources said members are waiting to see what happens in next week’s midterms elections, as the balance of the House will impact how appropriators approach spending discussions. End-of-year funding fights are always a slog, and Congress is already facing a packed to-do list during the lame duck session. While Congress does not return to session until after the November midterm elections, sources said preliminary discussions are underway about how to better protect members, their families and homes.

Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, who chairs the House Committee on Appropriations, told CNN serious policy discussions need to be had to determine what could go into additional funding.

“What do we think about in terms of security details? What does that entail with cooperative relationships with Capitol Police and local police departments? How do we address the families’ issue? These are serious issues that I think now need to be front and center in the debate,” DeLauro told CNN.

DeLauro plans to release a letter to her colleagues reminding them what is already available to them in the coming days but said, “I think we have to review where we are, what we have put in place and how we now move in short order to build on that so that we provide that peace of mind to members, but members of families as well” she said.

In terms of providing more full-time security to members and their families, DeLauro said threat assessments need to be made and security experts need to be consulted.

A source with knowledge of the Capitol Police discussions underway told CNN Capitol Police are considering 24 hours, seven days a week coverage of residences for members of leadership or those with threat-based details. The extra protection would fall on either Capitol Police or local police departments, and could include potential protective details for spouses on a temporary basis when needed. They are also looking into upgrades to existing security systems.

The attack on Pelosi’s San Francisco home also exposes the need for more explicit partnerships with local police departments, as two sources told CNN the San Francisco Police Department had stopped regularly posting a patrol car outside Pelosi’s house last year.

A Senate Democratic aide told CNN they believe a possible route for funding more lawmaker security could be a supplemental in the omnibus, the must-pass spending bill that funds the nation’s government for a fiscal year, which is set to expire December 16. On Monday, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told CNN in a statement that leadership looks forward “to exploring every option available to ensure maximum safety.”

Republicans, however, have signaled resistance to Democrats loading up the end-of-year spending bills with additional funding priorities – and they may feel even more emboldened if the GOP wins one or both chambers of Congress in next week’s midterm elections. And some in the GOP have downplayed the threat of political violence all together, with certain Republicans making light of the attack on Paul Pelosi or spreading debunked conspiracy theories about the incident.

Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota said in a statement to CNN, “We need a policy change in who gets protected. Under Speaker Pelosi’s leadership, I’ve had the privilege of being protected when I needed it. But I can’t imagine if a Republican like McCarthy was solely in charge of who gets protection.”

CNN has reached out to McCarthy’s office for comment.

Another potential legislative vehicle to address member security is the annual defense policy bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, also a Minnesota Democrat, is pushing for bipartisan language to be added to the NDAA that would allow lawmakers to scrub their private information from the internet. A similar provision is already included in the must-pass defense bill that applies to federal judges, but Klobuchar is optimistic there will now be enough momentum to expand those privacy protections to members of Congress.

“I’m hopeful that finally, I will be able to get the support to get this done,” Klobuchar told NBC News’ “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

‘Right now, members are on their own’

On top of political obstacles, even with more funding, US Capitol Police does not have the resources or personnel to respond to the increasing number of threats members and their families face.

Manger said in the wake of Paul Pelosi’s attack, the agency believes the current political climate calls for more resources for the physical safety of members of Congress.

“We believe today’s political climate calls for more resources to provide additional layers of physical security for Members of Congress,” Manger said in a written statement on Tuesday.

Honoré’s March 2021 report detailed how USCP was “understaffed, insufficiently equipped, and inadequately trained” to handle the January 6 attack. In just the first five months of fiscal year 2021, Honoré reported officers had already enacted 55% of overtime.

Even though Congress has appropriated more money to Capitol Police and for members to use in their districts and homes, members believe it is not enough. While congressional leadership is automatically granted a security detail, it does not extend to their families. Rank-and-file lawmakers can request a detail, and it’s granted based on the threat assessment determined by the Capitol Police – as was the case with some members on the January 6 select committee during this summer’s high-profile hearings.

Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the January 6 insurrection, said he and several of his colleagues had a sit-down meeting with the Capitol Police, where the lawmakers detailed some of the menacing threats they had been receiving and made a plea for security protections.

However, according to Upton: “They basically said, ‘We just don’t have the resources to do anything.’”

Upton said in addition to more resources, the Capitol Police “have got to have a better system in terms of assessing threats.”

Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, himself the subject of death threats, told CNN that lawmakers’ family members are extra vulnerable since they are often more stationary than the lawmakers themselves, and the threat to their families has often been overlooked.

“Right now, members are on their own,” Swalwell said. “So, if you either have extreme wealth or are able to dip into your campaign account, you can protect yourself. If not, you’re screwed.”

‘Buying time’: What has been appropriated so far and what is still needed

Although the resources allocated to Capitol Police do not reflect what is needed, Congress has made attempts to increase funding particularly after January 6. Congress already has a residential security program and district office security program, and both of those programs are set to receive more funding next year.

As the 2023 budget is still being negotiated, the House is recommending approximately $708 million be appropriated to the Capitol’s law enforcement agency, a Democratic aide told CNN. That is $106 million more than what was allocated in 2022.

In its 2021 budget, Congress appropriated around $515.5 million to the agency and an additional $70.6 million was provided in supplemental funding after the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

All Republicans – and a handful of progressives – voted against the House’s security supplemental last May, though most Republicans voted for the final version in July, which was significantly pared down from the House’s version.

“When I saw that additional officers weren’t on there, I said we were buying time,” Honoré told CNN on his reaction to seeing previous appropriations that did not account for a massive increase in USCP officers.

Additionally, lawmakers can receive up to $10,000 each to secure their homes thanks to a new program that started this summer, while a district office security program has existed since 2017. For 2023, the Democratic aide told CNN $4.8 million has been requested for the residential security program and $2.7 million has been requested for the district office security program.

Roughly 1,800 sworn employees worked for USCP prior to January 6 and there are currently 1,900 members today, an agency spokesperson told CNN.

Manger said in January 2022 that USCP wants to hire 840 new officers over the next three years, amounting to roughly 280 per year, and the agency spokesperson told CNN that USCP is on track to meet that goal of 280 new officers by the end of the year.

Starting this summer, all graduating cadets began receiving a 40-hour block of training in dignitary protection to supplement full-time Capitol Police agents, according to a source, who noted the measure is meant to help alleviate the growing strain on protective details. The source told CNN the freshly trained officers are part of the Dignitary Protection Reserve Corps, which now has roughly 70 officers. Capitol Police hope to grow the program to at least a few hundred officers.

The program will require these uniformed, trained officers to supplement the full-time dignitary protection teams for big events or travel. The source said officers could be eventually assigned to sit post at the home of a member outside of Washington. However, it’s unclear if that will be utilized in the short-term as a response to the attack on Paul Pelosi.

‘A direct line’: Lawmakers reflect on rhetoric that has led to increased risks with lack of support

The attack on Pelosi’s spouse reverberated through Washington, where lawmakers have already been grappling with an uptick in threats in recent years.

After a man was arrested outside her home in July, Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal wrote a letter to Pelosi imploring the House speaker to embrace more security measures for members and their families in their home districts, a source familiar told CNN.

“This is our terrible new reality, and we must respond with increased attention and resources to the safety and security of every member of Congress so that we can continue to do our jobs without fearing for our lives and the lives of our loved ones,” Jayapal said in a statement to CNN.

But threats persist. In October for example, there was a shooting on the Shirley, New York, property of Rep. Lee Zeldin, the state’s Republican nominee for governor.

According to the most recent statistics, the Capitol Police tracked roughly 9,600 threats in 2021 against the people and places the department is charged with protecting. It’s unclear how many threats were made against family members.

Jayapal connected the rise in violence against lawmakers to rhetoric after January 6.

“The attack against Paul Pelosi was horrific, and my heart goes out to the Speaker and her family,” Jayapal said in a statement provided to CNN. “As I said when I experienced my own security issue at my home, there is a direct line between the Big Lie, January 6 and these horrific acts of violence at homes of members of Congress.”

CNN’s Kristin Wilson and Manu Raju contributed to this report.

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