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Senators to unveil bill banning permanent Capitol fence

Senators to unveil bill banning permanent Capitol fence
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A bipartisan pair of senators will introduce legislation on Thursday to ban permanent fencing at the U.S. Capitol amid broad backlash against the beefed-up security measures in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack.

Sens. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week Greitens Senate bid creates headache for GOP MORE (R-Mo.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenLawmakers struggle with Capitol security after latest attack Democrats torn on Biden's bipartisan pledge Democrats wrestle over tax hikes for infrastructure MORE (D-Md.) will introduce the bill on Thursday and hold a press conference with Del. Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonHouse committee approves DC statehood bill House committee expected to pass DC statehood bill on Wednesday DC delegate pushes for removing Capitol fence despite car attack MORE (D-D.C.), who introduced the same legislation in the House last month.

The bill, based on text of the House legislation, would prevent federal funding from being used to construct a permanent fence around Capitol buildings or on Capitol grounds.

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The introduction of the Senate bill comes as Capitol security officials finished removing an outer perimeter of fencing, which extended blocks away from the Capitol building, allowing roads that have been closed in the wake of the attack by a pro-Trump mob to reopen.

There is still a barrier that circles the main Capitol building, which security officials have said is staying in place as repairs continue to be made. National Guard troops are also expected to remain at the Capitol into May, as part of a two-month extension requested by the Capitol Police and agreed to by the Pentagon.

The decision to put up the fencing, much of which was previously topped with barbed wire, had sparked fierce backlash from lawmakers, who questioned if the beefed-up security was an overreaction and questioned the message Congress was projecting to the world.

"I'm extremely uncomfortable with the fact that my constituents can't come to the Capitol. With all this razor wire around the complex it reminds me of my last visit to Kabul," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcCarthy and Biden haven't spoken since election Democrats roll out legislation to expand Supreme Court Wall Street spent .9B on campaigns, lobbying in 2020 election: study MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters earlier this month.

Norton, in a letter to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Republican proposes constitutional amendment to prevent Supreme Court expansion Business groups oppose Paycheck Fairness Act, citing concerns it could threaten bonuses and negotiating New US sanctions further chill Biden-Putin relations MORE (D-Calif.), said permanent fencing "would send an un-American message" and would negatively impact D.C. neighborhoods around the Capitol.

"These residents and businesses have been more than understanding as their neighborhoods have turned into militarized zones. ... Permanent fencing would infringe on their ability, as well as the general public’s ability, to enjoy the public spaces that define our nation’s capital," she wrote.