Reid Blasts Criticism of Capitol Police in Approps Bill

Posted July 29, 2005 at 6:19pm

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) lambasted House lawmakers Friday during debate on the legislative branch spending bill, asserting that language critical of the Capitol Police Department included in a joint conference report is “ridiculous” and “unwarranted.”

The Nevada lawmaker, himself a former Capitol Police officer, cited the report accompanying the $3.8 billion appropriations bill, in which House and Senate appropriators censured the management of the 1,600-officer law-enforcement agency.

“What has returned from conference is an anti-Capitol Police screed that is unacceptable,” Reid asserted on the Senate floor, although he subsequently voted in favor of the legislation, which passed the chamber on a 96-4 vote.

In the report, lawmakers rebuked Capitol Police officials, writing they are “disappointed” with the agency over problems in “procurements, project management, budget execution, and payroll and compensation issues.”

In addition, the report directs Capitol Police to implement a new system of internal controls and instructs senior officials to set “an appropriate tone at the top.”

Lawmakers also included provisions, such as the creation of an Office of Inspector General and application of financial disclosure laws, that will increase Congressional oversight of the department.

Reid called the appropriations report “nasty and relentlessly negative” but did not cite specific language in the document. He acknowledged that the department is “imperfect” but suggested that the sanctions were included by House lawmakers during negotiations over the department’s budget.

“It seems that our conferees were forced, obviously, to swallow nasty report language about the chief of police and his deputies and other police administrators, in order to get adequate funding for them,” Reid said.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), ranking member of the Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch, likewise criticized the report.

Under the spending bill, the law-enforcement agency will receive $249 million, an increase of 3.3 percent over its current budget.

That figure is higher than the $240 million budget offered by House lawmakers, but below the $264.6 million proposed by the Senate.

A spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee defended the report.

“We agree with Sen. Reid that we have a great appreciation for the work of the Capitol Police, particularly the rank and file,” said spokesman John Scofield. “Unfortunately there are some management issues that are addressed in the conference report in a bicameral, bipartisan way.”

In fact, all but one of the House and Senate conferees signed the report — Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) declined to do so, citing concerns with the Capitol Visitor Center.

“There was broad consensus that there were serious management problems that have existed for many years,” Scofield added. “You can try to recreate history, but the conference report was the product of a bicameral, bipartisan consensus.”

Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.), who chairs his chamber’s Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch, similarly defended the legislation, calling it “a good bill.”

“We have been very generous with the police,” Allard said on the Senate floor. “We have taken a very strong position of support for the Capitol Police.”

In a statement, Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer thanked Reid for this support, but did not comment specifically on the report.

“The men and women of this department really appreciate the Senator’s comments,” Gainer said. “We love being cops, and are privileged to work here.”