Capitol Police could run out of funds over August recess

Senate Appropriations chairman urges Republicans to start bipartisan talks on Capitol security spending bill

A Capitol Police van in front of the Senate wing of the Capitol on June 17, 2021. Democrats estimate the department will run out of funds by August without action by Congress.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
A Capitol Police van in front of the Senate wing of the Capitol on June 17, 2021. Democrats estimate the department will run out of funds by August without action by Congress. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted June 21, 2021 at 5:52pm

The Capitol Police will run out of funding in August if lawmakers don’t approve a supplemental spending bill before then, according to Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick J. Leahy.

The Vermont Democrat released a statement Monday calling on Republicans to begin serious negotiations on a spending package to stave off what could become a security nightmare for the Capitol complex and the police officers who kept lawmakers alive during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“For 32 days, Senate Republicans have refused to join bipartisan negotiations to address these urgent security needs, and now the Capitol Police risks running out of funding this summer,” he said.

If the Republicans and Democrats can’t come to agreement on a security spending package, Leahy said the Capitol Police will “deplete salaries funds by early August” and that it would be forced to continue delaying the purchase of “critical equipment, like respirators, ballistic helmets, and other protective and civil disturbance hard gear.”

Leahy also said the department has delayed training sessions and wellness programs meant to address mental health following the attacks on the Capitol complex this year.

“The January 6 insurrection left a path of destruction through the seat of our democracy and left our Capitol Police force overburdened and under resourced resulting from unanticipated costs associated with the attack, including significant overtime duty, and the need for retention bonuses,” Leahy said in the statement.

A Capitol Police spokesperson declined to comment specifically on the funding situation, but said in a statement that the department is "working closely" with "Congressional stakeholders to ensure" it can carry out its mission and support its officers.

Senate Appropriations ranking member Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., said last week that there were “no serious negotiations” on a supplemental security bill between himself and Leahy. And Shelby has said for weeks that he has concerns about approving the funding in the absence of a permanent police chief for the department.

“We shouldn’t rush to judgment. I’ve said all along that this is serious stuff, but I don’t believe the Capitol is in danger right now,” Shelby said.

House Democrats approved a $1.9 billion spending package following a 213-212 vote in May amid unified Republican opposition to the bill.

[$1.9B Capitol security bill passes House; bipartisan talks likely]

Among House GOP lawmaker criticisms were that Democrats in that chamber ended negotiations with Republicans too soon, that the Architect of the Capitol hadn’t completed a full security assessment and that the House Administration Committee hadn’t determined if or how to rework the structure of the Capitol Police board.

Republicans also criticized House Democrats for proposing that the National Guard be put in charge of a new quick reaction force instead of an agency under the jurisdiction of the House and Senate.

Leahy has expressed similar concerns about providing the $200 million proposed in the House bill to the National Guard and not a law enforcement agency.

Republican concerns about various elements of the House’s supplemental spending bill meant senators would need to renegotiate the package before it could clear Congress. But Leahy said Monday that Republicans have opted not to begin serious negotiations.

Leahy also said that without a supplemental funding bill, the National Guard would likely begin cutting training as soon as August.

The National Guard Association of the United States released a statement last week reiterating its opposition to the National Guard being in charge of a quick reaction force, saying that “soldiers and airmen should perform law enforcement only as a last resort.”

The association also warned of “deep cuts” if not reimbursed before Aug. 1.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said last week during a Senate Appropriations hearing that if not reimbursed for the cost of protecting the Capitol during and after the insurrection, the National Guard’s ability to train would be impacted. 

Austin also said a formal request to help replenish Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system was forthcoming. There's been some discussion of adding those funds to the Capitol security supplemental in the Senate, if it ever got off the ground.