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Norton Warns of Security Gaps With Park Police Furloughs

When lawmakers head home to their districts for the Memorial Day recess next week, they’ll likely face questions from constituents about the sequester, efforts on Capitol Hill to mitigate its effects and what could happen if the arbitrary spending cuts are not re-evaluated from agency to agency.

The latest sequestration nightmare scenario to be floated to the American people comes from Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.

Following the bombings at the Boston Marathon last month, Norton announced that she would make the rounds to the Capitol Police, United States Park Police and the Federal Protective Services to determine whether they had the resources necessary to protect the thousands of people who attend myriad outdoor events in the nation’s capital each summer during “tourist season.”

Her concerns that budget cuts could result in fewer law enforcement resources to police such events have been validated, Norton said in a press release  Wednesday night: The Capitol Police and Park Police, she confirmed, “have been significantly affected in ways that could compromise public safety.”

The Park Police, Norton said, expect 112-196 furloughed hours per officer. The Capitol Police appear to be struggling to operate at maximum effectiveness with limited resources.

The solution, she said, is for the chairmen and ranking members of the legislative branch appropriations subcommittees of the House and Senate to “examine authority to reprogram funds for the current fiscal year and to make adjustments if necessary, considering the clear public safety concerns this year.”

In a letter to the chairmen sent Wednesday, Norton wrote: “While I am not requesting an increase in the number of police, I am asking that the Park Police and the Capitol Police be funded so as to avoid furloughs and the highly disruptive changes in tours of duty, which are highly disruptive.”

Congress has already made an exception for the Federal Aviation Administration, which was under the duress of sequester-driven furloughs causing hour-long delays at airports nationwide. It is also now considering an adjustment to the spending cuts causing mass furloughs within the Defense Department.

Though Norton might have a compelling case for a third carve-out, it might be a tough sell, especially in the Republican-controlled House where fiscal conservatism rules and bigger plans to replace the sequester might have precedence over piecemeal efforts.

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