Congress responds to package threats, says they can’t become ‘the new normal’

WASHINGTON — Members of Congress quickly condemned the threats directed at lawmakers and other public officials on Wednesday, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called “attempted acts of domestic terrorism.”

Lawmakers from both parties thanked law enforcement for their efforts to protect them. Some members of Congress said the latest developments signaled a need to tone down political differences ahead of the midterm elections.

“I stand with all Americans in condemning today’s attempted acts of domestic terrorism,” McConnell said in a statement, which praised the Secret Service and others in law enforcement for protecting public figures “from such unconscionable acts.”

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said in a statement that terrorizing public figures is “unacceptable under any circumstance.”

“We must return to a more civil, less violent means of communicating with each other,” he said. “Violent threats and violent actions cannot be tolerated.”

Rep. Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Republican who was wounded in 2017 when a gunman shot him during a baseball practice in Arlington for GOP lawmakers, said in a tweet, “we must agree that this is a dangerous path and it cannot become the new normal.”

D.C. police Chief Peter Newsham vowed to help other law enforcement agencies with their investigation, which includes the discovery of a suspected explosive that had been addressed to the D.C. home of former President Barack Obama.

“We are going to do everything we possibly can to ensure that there is a swift closure in this case,” he said.

D.C. police also called on people to report any suspicious activity.

On Capitol Hill, the Senate’s sergeant-at-arms reminded lawmakers and their staffs to take necessary safety precautions. In an email, staffers were told it can be “extremely dangerous” for anyone to bring an unopened package into lawmakers’ office buildings, as well as into the U.S. Capitol.

Mail addressed to members of the Senate and House of Representatives does not go directly to lawmakers’ offices. As a result of 2001’s deadly anthrax attacks that took place soon after Sept. 11, the routing of mail to Congress changed. It is now processed at facilities in suburban Maryland and goes through an extensive screening process.

In those 2001 attacks, anthrax was sent to the office of then-Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota. Many members of his staff tested positive for anthrax exposure, but all of them turned out to be OK. Anthrax attacks elsewhere, however, claimed five lives.

It was the deadliest bioterrorism attack in U.S. history.

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