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In a Bubble: Indiana Congressman Proposes Putting House of Representatives Behind Plexiglas


After Saturday's attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, members of Congress are looking for ways to step up their own personal security. Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois announced Tuesday that he will push to have members' office budgets increased to cover additional security measures -- just one week after House Republican leadership cut members' office budgets by 5 percent.  Jackson's proposal would increase House office budgets by 15 percent.

Another congressman, Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana, is reportedly planning to introduce legislation next week that would encase the House of Representatives' public gallery in a "transparent and substantial material" such as Plexiglas. An aide to the Indiana rep told CBS that the measure is aimed at keeping members of the public from being able to throw explosives or make other attacks on member on the House floor.

It's unclear how any kind of weapon could reach the House gallery after guests to the Capitol go through security to enter the building, and further security checkpoints before entering the House and Senate galleries.

Burton has actually introduced similar legislation in the past. "The Architect of the Capitol shall enclose the visitors' galleries of the House of Representatives with a transparent and substantial material, and shall install equipment so that the proceedings on the floor of the House of Representatives will be clearly audible in the galleries," the bill states.

CBS News reports:

A past version of the legislation... references past attacks on Congress. Among them are a 1915 bombing by a man protesting U.S. involvement in World War 1, the shooting of five members of Congress by Puerto Rican nationalists during a House vote in 1954, and a the placing of a bomb by the Weather Underground in a Senate bathroom in 1971. (The bomb went off early and no one was hurt.)

There were also two incidents in 1983. The first involved a man strapping an explosive to his body and trying unsuccessfully to detonate it in the House visitor's gallery. And the second came when a group called the Armed Resistance Unit planted a bomb outside the Senate chamber. The bomb detonated at 11:00 p.m., when no one was in the area.

More recently, in 1998, a gunman shot two police officers at an entrance to the Capitol.

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