Senate negotiators agreed Tuesday on a nearly $2.1 billion emergency spending measure that would bolster Capitol Hill security and fund the relocation of Afghans who helped the U.S. government during the war, according to top lawmakers in that chamber.
The bipartisan pact between Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., and ranking member Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., would end months of stalemate between the parties about how to pay for costs stemming from the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by pro-Trump rioters and other emergency spending matters.
“Both sides had to compromise, but I think we’re in pretty good shape,” Leahy told reporters.
Shelby said in a statement that he was “pleased this legislation sticks to immediate security needs” and that the Biden administration “at long last provided Congress the information necessary” to provide funding to relocate Afghans who helped the U.S. government.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said he's seeking agreement with Republicans so the Senate can pass the package this week.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said that if the Senate approves the measure this week, the House could vote on it before leaving at the end of the week for its summer break.
The package would provide a total of $2.085 billion in emergency funds, according to Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I.
“This bipartisan agreement will help address critical safety and health needs of the Capitol complex and those who work in and visit the U.S. Capitol,” Reed said in a statement. “It also addresses other urgent issues, such as relocating Afghan refugees who put their lives on the line to assist U.S. troops over the last two decades.”
Afghan visa program, National Guard reimbursement
The bill would provide more than $1.1 billion to help relocate Afghans, with $600 million for the State Department to improve and strengthen the special immigrant visa program; $500 million for the Defense Department for emergency transportation, housing and other essential services; and $25 million for the Department of Health and Human Services for medical screenings and housing services once the refugees are in the United States.
The bill would provide the full $521 million the National Guard says is needed to fill the budget hole created by its activation of troops from numerous states in response to the Jan. 6 attack.
The U.S. Capitol Police would receive $70.7 million to cover the costs of its response to the insurrection and “to meet urgent gaps and demands” to protect the Capitol and those inside it, according to a Democratic summary.
That funding would include $31.1 million for salary and benefits, $5.8 million to bolster protective details for members who have experienced increased threats, $4.4 million for trauma support for officers and $1.3 million for gas masks.
The Capitol Police’s intelligence division, which was broadly criticized after Jan. 6 for being unprepared, would receive $3.3 million for analysts and technical resources.
The Architect of the Capitol would receive $300 million with $283 million going toward upgraded doors and windows throughout the complex and $17 million for new cameras.
The package includes $42.1 million to help various offices address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with $22 million for the Architect of the Capitol, $7.8 million for the Senate Sergeant at Arms and $800,000 for the Capitol Police.
The measure also would provide $1.1 million to reimburse states and local governments for the cost of providing security for President-elect Joe Biden during the period after he was elected last November and before his inauguration on Jan. 20.
Senate appropriators released text of the bill Tuesday night.
The House passed a $1.9 billion supplemental spending bill in May with no Republican support and three Democrats voting “present.”
House Republicans criticized Democrats for breaking off talks on a package that they argued needed to wait until the Architect of the Capitol completes a full security assessment and the House Administration Committee addresses the structure of the Capitol Police board.
Republicans and Leahy also said providing $200 million to the National Guard to establish a “quick-reaction force” would be ill-advised and that any such unit should be made up of civilian law enforcement officials who are under Congress’ authority. That funding isn’t included in the emerging Senate package, which hasn’t yet been nailed down fully.
Talks stalled in the Senate for nearly a month until Leahy released a statement on June 21 warning that the Capitol Police would begin to run out of money in August if lawmakers didn’t take action to reimburse them for costs related to overtime and other fallout from the 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,” Leahy said at the time.
The National Guard and Defense Department officials raised alarm bells around the same time that without the $521 million reimbursement for the Capitol Hill activation, the Guard would be forced to curtail weekend training and operational maintenance in August and September. The Pentagon did, however, quietly send lawmakers a reprogramming request on June 11 saying that it could cover National Guard costs by deferring “non-urgent” facilities repairs by a few months.
A few weeks later on July 9, a Republican proposal suggested $632.9 million for the National Guard, Capitol Police and the Architect of the Capitol.
Leahy rejected that offer, saying it “doesn’t provide the necessary resources to appropriately secure the Capitol complex.” He also said that any emergency spending measure needed to address the costs of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Capitol and its staff and to ensure that Afghan nationals who assisted U.S. troops “will not be abandoned.”
Leahy then released a $3.7 billion, 74-page bill that included $100 million to help relocate Afghans who assisted the U.S. government — an issue that Shelby dismissed as extraneous to their negotiations.
“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.”
Shelby released an 11-page bill totaling $632.9 million the same day, before later agreeing to include some funding for Afghan relocations in a subsequent counteroffer that topped $1 billion.