Senate GOP proposes emergency Capitol Police funding amid spending fight
Senate Republicans are proposing emergency funding for the Capitol Police and National Guard amid a stalemate over a larger House-passed security bill.
Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, on Friday suggested that immediate financial assistance for the Capitol Police and National Guard, who were stationed at the Capitol after the Jan. 6 attack, should be moved separately from broader funding to beef up and expand security measures around the Capitol Complex.
“We should pass now what we all agree on: The Capitol Police and National Guard are running out of money, the clock is ticking, and we need to take care of them,” Shelby said in a statement.
A GOP aide added that Shelby believes that lawmakers should instead revisit the issue of new funding for extra security measures after there is a “comprehensive assessment and plan” for what steps need to be taken to help fortify security around the Capitol complex, where the last layer of extra fencing is in the process of being removed.
The statement comes as Friday morning news reports about the funding crunch faced by Capitol Police, which was previously publicly disclosed by top Democrats late last month, set off fresh alarm bells around Capitol Hill about the need for Congress to act quickly.
The House passed a $1.9 billion emergency supplemental package in May. That included roughly $44 million for Capitol Police, including funds for overtime pay, training, equipment, trauma support for officers and expanding intelligence gathering. It would also reimburse the National Guard and D.C. police for their work at the Capitol.
The House bill, however, also goes further to fund new security measures, including “hardening” windows and doors around the Capitol, which rioters used to breach the building, and installing new cameras. It would also create a Quick Reaction Force to help bolster the Capitol Police.
But Senate Republicans have offered Democrats a scaled-down roughly $632 million bill that would focus on funding for the Capitol Police and National Guard, according to a copy of the legislation obtained by The Hill.
The GOP bill proposes giving nearly $521 million to the National Guard, roughly $97 million for the Capitol Police and $15 million for the Architect of the Capitol.
But Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chair of the Appropriations Committee, indicated in a statement on Friday night that the GOP offer falls short, saying that he would release his “comprehensive proposal,” previously shared with Republicans, next week.
The “Republican proposal simply does not provide the necessary resources to appropriately secure the Capitol complex. ….We still have a responsibility to pay for costs that were incurred as a result of the pandemic on the Capitol complex and its staff. These have not been addressed in the Republican proposal,” Leahy said.
Leahy indicated that the bill should also pay for costs of investigating and prosecuting the Capitol attack, as well cover the cost of other law enforcement agencies that assisted on Jan. 6. He also signaled that he wanted to address an unrelated issue, special immigrant visas for Afghans who aided the U.S. military, in any bill.
“A violent insurrection happened. A pandemic happened. And the President announced the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. These events created urgent needs that must be met,” he said.
The Senate has been at a stalemate over push for new security funding for months with Republicans arguing that it could be revisited during the broader appropriations process after the completion of a review of what additional security is needed at the Capitol.
But the Capitol Police force is facing a severe budget squeeze, largely due to a spike in officers’ overtime pay following the Jan. 6 riot, that could provide the momentum needed to force Congress’s hand.
Those surprise costs have led to expectations that the department’s budget for salaries will run out as early as mid-August — a month and a half before funding would be replenished with the start of the next fiscal year.
The need for an influx of cash sparked concerns, first reported by Punchbowl News, that the Capitol Police could need to carry out furloughs, an idea they pushed back on quickly on Friday morning.
“The United States Capitol Police continues to advise and work with our oversight committees, so that the Department can secure the Capitol, Members, and staff within our funded levels,” a spokesperson said in an email. “Supporting our workforce while carrying out our mission remains a high priority.”
Another source said the department has some flexibility to shift funds from other buckets — including money earmarked for equipment purchases and training — to prevent officer furloughs.
The Capitol Police have been in turmoil since the Jan. 6 attack, during which officer Brian Sicknick was killed and more than 140 other officers were injured.
Then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund announced a day after the attack that he would resign; the Capitol Police Union issued a vote of no confidence for acting Chief Yogananda Pittman and other department leaders; and CNN reported earlier this week that 75 officers have left since Jan. 6.
House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who chairs the panel’s legislative branch subcommittee, issued a joint statement on Friday afternoon urging the Senate to take up the House-passed bill.
“This legislation covers overtime pay, provides retention bonuses, and expands wellness and trauma support for these heroes,” they said. “The solution lies in the Senate. It is time for the Senate to come to the table, honor the sacrifice of the Capitol Police, and swiftly pass the emergency supplemental.”
Mike Lillis and Rebecca Beitsch contributed. Updated at 10:17 p.m.