Omnibus Directs Cash to Conventions, Inauguration Security

The presidential nominating conventions are months away, but Congress earmarked funding in the omnibus appropriations bill to beef up security in host cities Cleveland and Philadelphia and for the 2017 inauguration of the next White House occupant.

Even as a bigger effort, pushed by Democrats, to restore federal funding for political party conventions failed to make it into the $1.15 trillion spending bill (HR 2029), lawmakers agreed to fork over $100 million in taxpayer dollars to tighten security at both of the events. 

Lawmakers from Ohio and Pennsylvania cheered the extra federal money for the Republican and Democratic National Conventions which they said can take a toll on local law enforcement agencies and stretch resources.

“Ensuring the safety of convention goers and the Cleveland community is a critical component of the convention planning process," said Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican up for re-election next year. “These funds will allow convention organizers and the city of Cleveland to ensure that appropriate security measures are being taken.”

Each of the cities will get $50 million.

Both conventions have set up host committees, which are responsible for underwriting most of the convention events. The Cleveland host committee has agreed to raise $64 million, said spokeswoman Emily Lauer, who noted that as of mid-December the committee has raised about $43.5 million.

Anna Adams-Sarthou, a spokeswoman with the Philadelphia host committee, said the goal was to raise $85 million in cash and in-kind contributions. She said the committee isn't saying how far it is toward reaching that goal other than "we are making good progress." 

Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said the funding in the omnibus for security was a crucial step in helping Philadelphia host the Democratic National Convention set for July 25-28. Republicans gather first in Cleveland, July 18-21, 

“I’m pleased that the omnibus includes security funding for both conventions as has been the case for years,” Casey said. “More than ever it’s critical that local law enforcement has the resources necessary to provide security for large scale events, like the Democratic and Republican Conventions."

Some Democrats pushed for another rider that would have restored the public financing of the quadrennial nominating conventions. Congress eliminated it in a 2014 law ( PL 113-94 ) that instead boosted taxpayer funding for pediatric medical research.

The Congressional Budget Office last week offered its estimates of what it called draft legislation on the matter from Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who also leads the Democratic National Committee. The CBO said such a measure would increase direct spending by $40 million in 2016. A spokesman, Geoff Burgan, did not respond to requests seeking comment.

Campaign finance groups mobilized against the rider largely because Republicans were pushing their own provision alongside it to end the $3 check-off box on tax forms that provides taxpayer funding to presidential contenders.

Not to be left out, the omnibus measure also would provide $1.25 million for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, which pays for the viewing stands and support facilities within the Architect of the Capitol budget. The funding also includes overtime and security costs associated with the 2017 presidential inauguration within the Capitol Police budget.

Katherine Tully-McManus contributed to this report.