Legislative Branch bill includes new accountability measures for Capitol Police

Bill leaves out House language that would remove Confederate statues from the Capitol

U.S. Capitol Police in riot gear make their way to the Supreme Court building where thousands of participants in the "Million MAGA March" gathered for speeches on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
U.S. Capitol Police in riot gear make their way to the Supreme Court building where thousands of participants in the "Million MAGA March" gathered for speeches on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted December 21, 2020 at 6:40pm

The fiscal 2021 omnibus spending bill released Monday would prompt new Capitol Police transparency but leaves out House-backed language mandating the removal of statues and busts of Confederates and other figures from the Capitol.

The $5.3 billion Legislative Branch measure, which covers Congress and its offices, "encourages the Department to develop a process for routinely sharing information with the public about the activities and actions of the [U.S. Capitol Police] in conducting its mission," according to a joint explanatory statement on the bill. The process should be consistent and not interfere with "USCP's primary mission of protecting the Congress and the legislative process."

Overall, the bill would boost spending on Congress by about $251 million over current law.

The Capitol Police is charged with protecting Congress and is largely shielded from public disclosure. As a part of the Legislative Branch, the force need not comply with Freedom of Information Act requests, despite being funded by taxpayers.

Following George Floyd’s killing at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department in May, protests erupted across the country demanding increased accountability and transparency from police departments. The House's fiscal 2021 Legislative Branch spending bill included several mechanisms to hold their own police force to account.

A pattern of Capitol Police officer misconduct that was met with light punishment from management led to further calls for the department to be made more accountable.

The House provisions were left out of a version issued by the GOP-led Senate Appropriations Committee, which also included a funding boost for the force.

The compromise bill would allocate about $515.5 million to the force, an increase of roughly $51.2 million over current enacted funding. The House version would have kept funding flat, while the Senate draft bill would have allocated $520.5 million.

Senate Republican appropriators cited increasing threats against lawmakers as one reason to increase Capitol Police funding.

Confederate statues

House language that would require the Architect of the Capitol to remove 14 statues and two busts from the Capitol depicting persons "with unambiguous records of racial intolerance," including those who served in the Confederate army, did not make it into the final bill.

The bill was issued just hours after the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was removed from the Capitol at the request of the state of Virginia.

House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, expressed disappointment Monday that the Senate's bill "refused to remove racial intolerant statues from the Capitol," but said the legislation served as a "down payment on the modernization of the House of Representatives and ensures we can continue to serve our constituents efficiently and effectively."

Ryan said he was "pleased that this legislation increases transparency for United States Capitol Police and provides additional funding for the Office of Diversity."

The House Office of Diversity & Inclusion would receive $1.5 million, an increase of $500,000 above current spending.

The bill also includes a provision that recognizes increasing numbers of women in Congress. It directs the House Curator to create lists of notable historic and current female members who have made "remarkable contributions to society" and set "trailblazing records."

The measure tasks the curator to provide a report on where new portraits of some distinguished female members can be displayed in House-controlled facilities.

The bill also includes $2 million for a newly created House Modernization Initiatives Account, which is intended to promote administrative efficiencies and expand technologies in the chamber.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the bill also includes $5 million for the Office of the Attending Physician for expenses including testing and vaccine handling in the Capitol complex.

Lawmakers will not receive a pay raise under the bill. Every member of the House and Senate — with the exception of leadership positions — makes $174,000 a year, a number that has remained the same since 2009.

Other funding levels, according to a Senate Appropriations Committee summary, include:

  • The Architect of the Capitol would get $675.1 million, $12.9 million below the fiscal 2020 enacted level.
  • The Government Accountability Office would receive $661.1 million, $31.1 million above the fiscal 2020 enacted level.
  • The Library of Congress would get about $757.3 million, $32 million above the fiscal 2020 enacted level.
  • The Congressional Budget Office would get $57.3 million, $2.4 million above the fiscal 2020 enacted level.
  • The Government Publishing Office would get $117 million, equal to the fiscal 2020 enacted level.