Senate leaders will likely have to renegotiate a $1.9 billion Capitol Hill security supplemental spending bill before they can clear the measure for President Joe Biden’s signature.
House Republicans expressed several concerns with the package Tuesday, including that a quick reaction force to secure the complex would be under the control of the District of Columbia National Guard instead of Congress.
Democrats assembled the bill, which was introduced Friday, in response to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, which disrupted the counting of the Electoral College votes from the 2020 election and left five people dead.
Texas Rep. Kay Granger, the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, voiced frustration that Democrats are moving forward without Republican backing and without any agreement on the costs of security needs.
The House is set to take up the spending package on Thursday, after which the chamber will leave town until June 14, although the Senate is expected to be in session for two weeks in the interim.
“By choosing to forge ahead with this bill today, I’m concerned that my colleagues are more interested in making headlines instead of headway,” Granger told the Rules Committee at a hearing Tuesday.
House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said Republicans had proposed a $2.4 billion supplemental that would have allocated half of the money to Defense Department COVID-19 response efforts. The GOP offer “was not a serious proposal in terms of looking at what we needed to move forward on, in terms of security at the Capitol,” she said.
Republican opposition to the bill will likely stall its consideration in the evenly divided Senate, where at least 10 GOP lawmakers are needed to advance legislation.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick J. Leahy has also expressed concerns about the House spending bill.
In a statement Friday, the Vermont Democrat said that “we must make sure we are making smart investments in our security based on lessons learned. It is important to me that the Capitol, a potent symbol of our democracy, remain open and accessible to the public and does not feel like a militarized zone.”
The top Republican on the Senate spending panel, Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, told reporters Tuesday that he sees no urgent need to pass the emergency funding measure. He pointed out that the Capitol Police department doesn’t even have a permanent chief at the moment.
“I think we should be methodical and measured in how we do this because it’s so important,” Shelby said. He didn’t rule out the Senate swapping in its own version of the bill as a substitute amendment.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell later reinforced Shelby’s message, telling reporters that Republicans in his chamber weren’t yet sure exactly what to spend the money on. “I think we are pushing the pause button here,” McConnell said.
The Biden administration on Tuesday announced its support for House passage of the bill in a statement of administration policy, but the document doesn’t include mention of the quick reaction force.
The package would provide funding to dozens of agencies, including:
- $529.7 million for the Architect of the Capitol to enhance security throughout the complex, including the option of a “retractable security system” with “pop-in fencing.”
- $520.9 million to reimburse the National Guard for the activation from Jan. 6 through May 23.
- $157.7 million for federal judges and federal court facilities security.
- $66.8 million for the District of Columbia emergency planning and security fund.
- $43.9 million for the U.S. Capitol Police response to the attack and $18 million for body cameras, training and equipment.
If the Senate were to reach a bipartisan agreement, the House could approve the measure during a pro forma session unless a member objects. If that were to happen, the earliest a spending package could become law would be mid-June.
One of the more challenging aspects of the negotiation could be determining how to rework the $200 million for a quick reaction force to “augment” the Capitol Police.
House Rules ranking member Tom Cole of Oklahoma, was one of several Republicans to express opposition to that item Tuesday, saying that if it’s going to exist it should be under the control of the House and Senate, not the D.C. National Guard.
“Republicans on the Appropriations Committee, including myself, have deep concerns about the topline numbers of this bill as well as the provision that creates a rapid response force within the D.C. National Guard rather than one that’s controlled by and housed within Congress,” Cole said. “I trust that today’s measure will not be the final word and I look forward to eventually supporting a bipartisan security supplemental bill that we can all agree on and that will ultimately go to President Biden’s desk.”