Republicans spent much of Tuesday inundating inboxes with statements slamming President Barack Obama’s budget proposal, promising to kill initiatives before plans were formally unveiled.
But there was one small slice of the budget they remained mostly mum on: spending more money on their own protection on Capitol Hill. Capitol Police unveiled a budget asking for a bump to $409 million in fiscal 2017, up from the $375 million enacted in fiscal 2016, a majority of which would go toward salaries, security and maintenance efforts on the Hill.
Salaries increased overall from $309 million to $333 million, though Capitol Police did not specify Tuesday if that would cover raises for the existing officers, hiring additional officers, or some combination of the two.
Another bump came under a line item labeled Capitol Police buildings, grounds and security. The agency is asking for $38 million in that category, which is double what was enacted in fiscal 2015.
A source familiar with the agencies requests said some of that money is planned to pay for additional full body scanners in other parts of the Capitol Visitor Center, where at least two were installed on the House side last month.
Capitol Police said through a spokeswoman that it would not discuss budget details “given the sensitive and secure nature of our daily operational functions.”
“We do work closely with the Capitol Police Board to proactively identify and address all security questions and concerns,” according to a statement.
Capitol Police said in a statement it works continuously on the delicate balance of providing security on Capitol Hill “while also preserving an open environment for the public to have the ability to connect directly with their Representatives and exercise their First Amendment rights.”
Despite cuts in funding in other parts of the legislative branch budget in recent years, Capitol Police have seen its spending quadruple in the last 15 years as congressional security concerns have increased.
Legislative Branch agencies are seeking an overall 10 percent increase to nearly $5 billion, according to the budget. Unlike other appropriations bills, the legislative agencies set their own budget, not the White House.
The Architect of the Capitol’s construction budget would also increase under the proposal, from $92 million to $104 million, as it continues to oversee reconstruction of buildings on Capitol Hill. A $1 million increase for the Congressional Budget Office is proposed, from $47 million to $48 million. The Government Publishing Office budget stays flat a $118 million.
Republican members of Congress who railed against Obama’s $4 trillion budget proposal had little or nothing to say about ramping up spending for the force charged with protecting them and the Capitol.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., told Roll Call he had not yet seen the proposal. Blunt is the chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which oversees Capitol Police and other Legislative Branch agencies.
“I haven’t looked at it and nobody’s talked to me about it yet,” Blunt said.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va is chairwoman of the Senate Subcommittee on Legislative Branch. She said she wants an update on how Capitol Police have spent money approved last fiscal year for additional training, which she expects at a hearing in March.
A spokesman for the Senate Appropriations Committee said when it came to Capitol Police, the committee looked forward to “how best to promote the safety of workers and visitors in the Capitol complex.”
Four Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee released statements before Obama’s budget was publicly unveiled that panned “new spending proposals” described an “explosion of debt” and “job-killing taxes.”
When contacted for reaction to increases to Capitol Police proposals, particularly ones that have to do with securing Capitol Hill, the committee spokesman directed all questions to Blunt.
Contact Rahman at email@example.com or follower her on Twitter at @remawriter.
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