Senate Democrats up ante on Capitol security supplemental

Emergency measure is nearly double the cost of House-passed bill; includes money for some unrelated purposes

Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., left, and ranking member Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., speak before a hearing on the White House's fiscal 2022 defense budget request in Washington on Thursday, June 17, 2021.  (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., left, and ranking member Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., speak before a hearing on the White House's fiscal 2022 defense budget request in Washington on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted July 12, 2021 at 6:41pm

Senate Democrats released a $3.7 billion emergency spending bill Monday that would pay bills related to the Jan. 6 insurrection and attempt to bolster Capitol Hill security to avoid another attack.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick J. Leahy’s 74-page bill is the latest attempt by lawmakers to reimburse the National Guard, Capitol Police and other law enforcement agencies for their efforts on Jan. 6.

Leahy’s proposal includes funding for dozens of other agencies, including money to address ongoing costs of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout much of the federal government and funding to help relocate Afghan refugees who assisted the U.S. government during the war.

The Vermont Democrat attempted to get in front of Republican criticism that the bill isn’t narrowly tailored to addressing Capitol Hill security. “A piecemeal approach that jumps from one problem to the next is no way to govern," Leahy said on the floor Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer later started the process of moving Leahy’s bill onto the Senate calendar, potentially setting up a stalemate with Republicans later this month.

Senate Appropriations ranking member Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., formally released his own $632.9 million, 11-page bill Monday just before Leahy took to the floor.

“Funding for the Capitol Police and National Guard must not be held hostage because the Democrats insist on billions more in spending that lacks full support at this time,” Shelby said in a statement. “The clock is ticking. Let’s pass what we all agree on.”

Leahy’s proposal is $3 billion more than the Republican draft bill and nearly double the $1.9 billion spending measure the House approved on a party-line vote in May.

Senate Democrats’ bill would provide:

  • $525 million for the Architect of the Capitol.
  • $521 million for the National Guard.
  • $79.3 million for the Capitol Police.
  • $22 million for the Justice Department and U.S. attorneys for prosecutions.
  • $16.5 million for the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms office.
  • $12.3 million for Justice Department law enforcement agencies that responded to the Capitol on Jan. 6.

But the bill Leahy released Monday would go beyond funding directly related to the attack by pro-Trump rioters and enhanced security throughout the Capitol.

Leahy’s proposal would provide $100 million in funding to relocate Afghan nationals who assisted the U.S. government or face threats following the withdrawal of nearly all U.S. military personnel. Ensuring their safety has become a top initiative for the Biden administration as it withdraws many of the troops in the country ahead of Sept. 11.

The funding would assist teachers, female students, civil society leaders and others to become refugees in other countries, according to a summary.

Funding to address impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is also included in the bill, including $1.3 billion for the Defense Department, $150 million for the Social Security Administration, $99.6 million for the Architect of the Capitol and millions more for various Legislative Branch departments.

The bill would provide $25 million to the U.S. Marshals Service to address the safety of the federal judiciary and $1.1 million for local and state governments that provided security for president-elect Joe Biden from the election until the inauguration.

If Republicans and Democrats don’t reach an agreement on some sort of supplemental funding bill, the National Guard and Capitol Police could run into funding issues within weeks.

Various Defense Department officials have said that if Congress doesn’t reimburse the Guard the $521 million it spent for the Capitol Hill operation, it will need to curtail drill weekends, training and operational maintenance during August and September.

Leahy and others have warned for weeks that without additional funding, the Capitol Police will face a funding shortfall as soon as August —when lawmakers are supposed to be back home for recess —that would have detrimental impacts on security.