this Feb. 16, 2012, file photo. House Oversight and
Government Reform Committee member Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va.,
gestures during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. The
scandal that’s rocked the once-proud Secret Service and
raised questions about the president’s safety has also
produced rare bipartisan unity on Capitol Hill. Connolly, an
oversight committee Democrat, said: “If you closed your
eyes you would not know any difference between the
Democratic concern and the Republican concern. They are one
and the same.”
The scandal that's rocked the once-proud Secret Service and raised
questions about the president's safety has also produced rare
bipartisan unity on Capitol Hill.
With a month more
to go in bitterly contested congressional election campaigns,
Democratic and Republican lawmakers who usually are at odds have
been surprised to find themselves largely agreeing on a response
to the agency's recent extraordinary security breaches, including
a knife-carrying intruder who made it all the way into the White
House East Room.
bipartisan calls for Secret Service Director Julia Pierson's
resignation this week, and once it was announced Wednesday,
bipartisan agreement on the need for a wide-ranging independent
investigation. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Democratic
leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., both joined in that call.
Democratic leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform
Committee, which hosted Pierson at a hearing where her tepid and
inconsistent responses infuriated all sides, are drafting a letter
to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson outlining their
recommendations for the investigation — an unusual moment of
agreement on a panel notorious for its partisan sparring.
typically critical of President Barack Obama have been just as
full-throated as Democrats in voicing concerns about his safety.
And members of both parties are pledging vigorous efforts to
ensure that Pierson's resignation ushers in wholesale culture
changes at the Secret Service, where morale has been battered.
There are complaints of personnel shortages and the steady drip of
embarrassing revelations has tarnished the agency's once-sterling
it's in public or privately, I can tell you that the bipartisan
effort, and the importance of making sure that our president is
protected, is truly refreshing," said North Carolina Rep.
Mark Meadows, a Republican on the oversight panel. "We will
continue to hold hearings, continue to work together."
this Oct. 11, 2009 file photo, Secret Service Agent Joseph
Clancy, right, walks behind President Barack Obama, first
lady Michelle Obama and their, children Sasha, right, and
Malia, second from left, walk back to the White House after
attending St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington. Secret
Service Director Julia Pierson resigned Wednesday, a day
after bitingly critical questioning by Congress about a
White House security breach. There had been increasing calls
for her departure during the day. Pierson will be replaced
by Clancy, a former special agent in charge of the
president's protective detail who retired in 2011.
Gerry Connolly, an oversight committee Democrat, said: "If
you closed your eyes you would not know any difference between the
Democratic concern and the Republican concern. They are one and
Unlike with other
scandals that have divided Washington of late, from the deadly
attacks in Benghazi, Libya, to IRS targeting of conservative
political groups, Republicans aren't trying to pin this one on
Obama. Indeed, the most high-profile mission of the Secret Service
— to protect the president — puts Obama in a delicate position
when it comes to criticizing the agency or calling for reforms,
leaving Congress as the key overseer.
responsibility, along with the shock value of some of the
revelations and Pierson's clearly bungled response, appears to
have produced something of a bipartisan truce against scoring
political points over the issue.
At the same time,
Pierson's short tenure leading the agency — she took over 18
months ago when the previous director, Mark Sullivan, retired
after a scandal involving Secret Service agents hiring prostitutes
while on detail in Colombia — left her without deep
relationships on Capitol Hill to fall back on when the going got
tough, aides of both parties said. She had no protector, and
lawmakers of both parties felt free to attack.
Now the agency
must rebuild. The Obama administration has called for an
independent panel to scrutinize the Sept. 19 incident in which the
man with a knife jumped over a White House fence and eluded
security agents until he was deep inside the executive mansion, as
well as related issues, and make recommendations for a new
director. Those conclusions are due Dec. 15.
In the meantime,
the deputy director of the Secret Service, A.T. Smith, will be in
charge until Monday, when Joseph Clancy, a former head of the
service's presidential protective division, takes the helm on an
security must continue. Thursday the president was in Illinois for
a speech on the economy, and uniformed officers patrolled the
grounds of the White House — including the new, second layer of
temporary fencing put up the day after the fence-jumper made it
inside the building.