The Opportunity Cost of Impeachment: H.R. 838

By Matthew P. Daley

Editor’s Note: With the impeachment proceedings producing nothing more notable than Adam Schiff’s intimidation of witnesses and revelation that he was spying on the telephone calls of journalists and private citizens, this issue will address some of the opportunity costs of impeachment: lack of action on legislation with strong bipartisan support in the House that would ensure passage in both chambers. Matt Daley, a former Secret Service agent and co-editor, writes about the need to pass HR 838, and act that would allow law enforcement to utilize techniques developed by the Secret Service to identify and mitigate threats. David Montgomery writes about another action stalled by impeachment, approval of a new trade agreement between the US, Mexico and Canada also supported by both parties and sure to pass the House if brought up for a vote.

Efforts to impeach Donald Trump have clearly been the highest priority of the Democratic Party in 2019, to the exclusion, hopefully temporary, of other important public policy goals. Surprisingly, one bill that has languished would address widespread public concern about mass casualty events. Known as the TAPS Act (the Threat Assessment, Prevention and Safety Act), H.R. 838 would draw upon the techniques developed by the U.S. Secret Service over the past three plus decades to identify, investigate, assess and mitigate threats.

The term of art to describe this process is Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management (BTAM) and it is employed to help determine the credibility of a threat and interrupt those on a pathway to violence. Beyond the use of these approaches by the U.S. Secret Service, the Capitol Hill has its own BTAM unit to protect Members of Congress and their staffs.  If anyone doubts that these techniques need broad application to protect American communities and schools, they need only review the sad story governmental mismanagement in Broward County, Florida that failed to take steps to prevent a school shooting when the ground was littered with red flags.

The TAPS act would provide best practices throughout the Federal government and to states and localities. It would provide states and local entities with training, resources, and support to create their own BTAM units and establish a temporary working group made up of experts to provide the Congress with recommendations for a National Strategy to prevent targeted violence.

Significantly, the TAPS act has over 145 co-sponsors, split almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans. It has been endorsed by a wide variety of groups ranging from the American Psychoanalytic Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Alliance on Mental Health, the National Sheriffs’ Association, Sandy Hook Promise to a host of others.

Congress has seen fit to take reasonable and effective steps to protect itself. What about the rest of us? Over to you Chairman Nadler and Speaker Pelosi.