The prospect of violence is that some Democrats, especially members of the Color, saw an increase in personal threats against them and their offices during the 2020 protests.
“I didn’t plan to be on a Washington street on January 6th before someone said anything,” said Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif. “I am very concerned about violence. In all honesty, I say this because I am African American. … I see, I am not saying this as a legislator. “
Trump himself said he planned to participate alongside right-wing groups like the Proud Boys. So are some of the President’s most loyal Hill allies and other figures in the MAGA world planned to speak at the “Stop the Steal” rally on Wednesday.
The worrying combination of coronavirus and Trump’s threats to undermine the elections – not to mention two runoff elections on Tuesday that will determine control of the Senate – has created a tense mood at the Capitol that has historically been a solemn occasion: the Start of a new congress. Instead, lawmakers only hope to avert disaster.
“I hope democracy doesn’t have too much success this week,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.).
“Each of us is focused almost entirely on getting through by January 20th, honestly, not just Wednesday,” added Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) Added.
“After speaking to a number of my Republican colleagues, you can’t wait until January 20, either,” he said, adding that he welcomes any GOP member who stands up to the “threats and pressures” that are in their offices flock to support Trump.
Many lawmakers and officers privately say they are terrified by the growing security threats plaguing the Capitol this week. These fears have become so acute that the House NCO sent out a memo on Monday urging lawmakers to traverse the underground network of tunnels rather than public roads – guidance that goes against the strategy most members are using to limit of their risk for the coronavirus over the sprawling Capitol Hill campus.
With protests scheduled to begin early in the day, Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving urged Congressmen to arrive at the Capitol at 9 a.m. four hours before 1 p.m. Session “and stay on campus all day.” Lawmakers and employees are urged to park in garages, not above ground, and be aware that the DC police intend to enforce “extensive parking restrictions and road closures.”
Washington, D. C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has warned residents to avoid downtown Tuesday and Wednesday and gave a public reminder of the strict gun laws of D.C. Some lawmakers also said they are considering temporarily avoiding their own homes during this time. The National Guard was even activated in DC to help with the planned demonstrations.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) told Newsmax over the weekend that a court that dismissed his election subversion lawsuit means the decision is basically that you have made a decision to take to the streets and be as violent as Antifa and BLM. “
Gohmert later posted a statement on Twitter to make it clear that he does not support violence in any form.
“This is getting hot,” warned Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.). “I will do everything I can to calm this situation, and I hope that all of my colleagues will recognize that our rhetoric can be passionate, but none of our fellow citizens should incite or be derogatory.”
Meanwhile, lawmakers are back in the Capitol to usher in the 117th Congress, at a time many consider to be the most dangerous to their own health since the pandemic began in March.
Important parts of the opening day of the congress got into chaos on Sunday. Hundreds of lawmakers lay on the floor, apparently ignoring health warnings. The recalcitrant scene led spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi to send a stern note to lawmakers reminding them of proper health and safety protocols, which she attributed in part to the interruptions in a GOP procedural vote on Sunday that saw hundreds of members had their say once.
It all resulted in an unplanned mass enlistment with hundreds of members packed on the floor.
“It should be Covid safe, I should be part of a small group of newbies to be sworn in,” said a stunned MP Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) Of his opening day experience. “When we could swear in, it was so late that we just decided to let the masses swear in.”
And at a time when thousands of Americans are dying from coronavirus every day – including Luke Letlow, a recently elected GOP member – fear in the house rises as a handful of members, like Conservative MP Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga) . ) have refused to wear their masks on the floor.
“It’s risky, it’s dangerous, and I would hope the leadership of the House brings this up shortly,” said Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.), Who raised the issue in a Democratic caucus on Monday. “I’m really upset about it.”
Several members and senior staff were also furious that potentially infected lawmakers could join the day’s negotiations – they voted in a separate, glassed-in area in the gallery of the house – as long as they had a negative test recently. Another member, Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), announced the day after the procedure that she tested positive for the virus.
Legislators must again face the threat of a potential superspreader event Wednesday during a joint congressional session in which Republicans will contest the results of the electoral college and force hundreds of members to sit in the chamber together, resulting in an all-nighter could be if GOP lawmakers reject a series of Biden’s election victories.
It’s an extraordinary setting, especially for the nearly 60 new House members who are being sworn in for the first time in Congress.
“It’s an exciting week, it’s busy,” said Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (RN.Y.), who won a hard-fought race to recapture a GOP seat and found she was still working to get along with it familiarize with the spread main building.
Wednesday’s theater will be a rare public demonstration of the growing GOP divide over Trump’s campaign. Trump’s drive to scrap the election results – and his controversial call to pressure the Georgian foreign minister to do just that by “finding” him more votes – fueled intra-party tensions just before the critical Senate races in Georgia.
Trump further fueled the divide on Monday, attacking Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) For failing to support his efforts to stay in power and the Republicans unwilling to question Biden’s election victory , referred to as the “Surrender Caucus”.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) – one of the rare House Republicans to speak out publicly against anti-certification efforts – said he was under heavy pressure at home over the vote. Both his office phones and Twitter feed have lit up since he announced his location.
“It is the most consistent vote that many of my colleagues have taken,” said Massie, who has broken with the president on several occasions.
And while Massie said he wasn’t worried about the protests turning violent on Wednesday, he anticipated a large turnout: he said there were busloads of people from his district planning to travel to DC for the protests.
“I’m probably better off not going to the rallies,” he added.
Heather Caygle, Marianne LeVine and Olivia Beavers contributed to this report.