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One month after attack in congressman's office, House panel to consider more security spending

Rep. Connolly reacts to attack on staffers
Attack on Rep. Connolly's staffers comes amid spike in threats against lawmakers 04:39

Washington — One month after a violent and allegedly politically motivated attack at the office of a U.S. congressman, injured staff members are recovering and office safety enhancements are complete. But questions remain about whether Congress is doing enough to protect its own members and their aides from being targeted or assaulted in the future.

Xuan Kha Pham, 49, is charged with the May 15 attack at the Virginia district office of Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly. Pham is accused of striking one of Connolly's staffers in the head with a baseball bat. He also allegedly confronted an intern, who was on her first day on the job, at a reception desk. The suspect allegedly asked for Connolly by name while in the office.

CBS News has learned the intern has successfully returned to the job for the summer. "Our road to recovery won't be a short one, but we are committed to traveling it together and helping each other along the way," Connolly told CBS News. "I couldn't be prouder of each of them."

His spokesperson said the congressman's office has made "additional security upgrades that will best protect our staff and still allow us to serve our constituents" at the Fairfax, Virginia, location.

But in the immediate aftermath of the attack, some of his fellow members of Congress questioned whether they are allocating enough money to prevent similar attacks in other communities. 

"This is a major, major concern of mine that we must continue to discuss," Democratic Rep. Adriano Espaillat of New York said at a House subcommittee hearing two days after the attack at Connolly's office. "We must include additional resources for the sergeant at arms' district office security program and expand its scope."

On Wednesday, a House panel will discuss and mark up legislation that funds security operations for congressional offices. The amount of funding dedicated for security operations and enhancements to hometown office and residences of members of Congress is expected to be part of the debate and discussion.

Newly appointed House Sergeant at Arms William McFarland listed the enhancement of the "security and emergency preparedness" of House local district offices as a priority in an April 2023 strategic plan he released to members.

In the upper chamber, Senate Sergeant at Arms Karen Gibson recently launched an initiative to bolster security for senators and their home state staff. Gibson opened a "demonstration space" in the basement of the Russell Senate Office Building. Inside the space, which is closed to cameras and media, security staff have displayed an exhibition of technology for office security upgrades. The room offers exhibitions of "duress buttons," mail screening devices and safety glass to reduce the risk of attacks. 

CBS News has also learned that at least 50 of the 100 senators have accepted newly issued satellite phones, which provide emergency communications in the case of a larger-scale attack or failure of telecommunications systems.

In the wake of the attack in Connolly's office, prosecutors charged Pham with a federal criminal count of assault of an employee of the United States inflicting bodily injury. The case is pending in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. No upcoming court date is listed in a court docket reviewed by CBS News.

Connolly was at a ribbon-cutting event elsewhere in his district during the attack in his office. When asked about the impact of the attack on his staffers, the congressman told CBS News, "I have the best team in Congress. They are resilient, dedicated to public service and determined to do right by our constituents."

Months earlier, a separate attack raised concerns about the safety of the families and colleagues of members of Congress. Paul Pelosi, the husband of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was attacked inside the couple's home by a man wielding a hammer, who was allegedly targeting Nancy Pelosi for political retribution. David DePape, 42, pleaded not guilty to six charges, including attempted murder. Police have said DePape told them there was "evil in Washington" and he wanted to harm Nancy Pelosi because she was second in line to the presidency.

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