House narrowly approves $1.9B Capitol security bill after ‘squad’ drama
The House on Thursday passed a $1.9 billion spending bill to upgrade Capitol security in the wake of the Jan. 6 mob attack in a tight 213-212 vote, with the bill nearly going down because of opposition from liberal Democrats known as the “squad.”
The legislation was approved with three Democrats — Reps. Cori Bush (Mo.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) — voting “no” and another three — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.) — voting “present.” Two Republicans were absent from the vote, while all Republicans present voted “no.”
House Democratic leaders held open a procedural vote preceding final passage of the security spending bill due to some progressives expressing concerns about the funding for Capitol Police, according to numerous Democratic sources.
Some liberals were questioning if a double standard was at play between police handling of Black Lives Matter protests and when the pro-Trump mob, some of whom carried Confederate flags, stormed the Capitol.
“We cannot support this increased funding while many of our communities continue to face police brutality while marching in the streets, and while questions about the disparate response between insurrectionists and those protesting in defense of Black lives go unanswered,” Bush, Omar and Pressley said in a joint statement.
The impasse sparked frustration among other Democrats, who were agitated that the bill’s critics waited until the floor vote to air their grievances. “That kind of gotcha thing does not help,” one liberal Democrat said.
The legislation would also cover the costs of damage incurred from riot, when hundreds of former President Trump’s supporters overwhelmed police and forced the evacuation of lawmakers during a joint session of Congress to count the Electoral College vote.
Even more than four months after the attack, some Capitol windows damaged by the mob remain unrepaired and a tall fence still surrounds the main building.
“The funding is not optional. This vote is not a show vote. It’s about protecting the seat of our democracy and the men and the women and the young people who work here and serve it,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).
During her floor speech, she vividly recalled being in the chamber while the rioters were trying to break in and hearing the sound of gunshots just outside as a Capitol Police officer stopped a member of the mob from trying to reach the House floor.
Republicans voting against the bill included GOP lawmakers who voted to challenge the results of the Electoral College in certain states, but also those who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the riot.
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.), one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the insurrection, said she felt bipartisan negotiations over the security spending bill ended prematurely.
“We were in good negotiations trying to work this out,” Herrera Beutler, who’s also the top Republican on a House Appropriations subcommittee overseeing legislative branch funding. “And all of a sudden last week, it’s just done, we’re not going to negotiate anymore. That’s my problem.”
Rep. Kay Granger (Texas), the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, said the bill was a “one-sided solution” that doesn’t have buy-in from the Senate.
“The bill we are considering today implements permanent recommendations before ongoing security assessments are complete,” Granger said during House floor debate. Granger did not vote to impeach Trump, but she also did not vote to overturn the results of the Electoral College.
Granger also expressed concern with a provision in the bill allowing $200 million for a standing “quick reaction force” with the National Guard, saying it raises “serious concerns about the role of our military on American soil.”
The National Guard didn’t arrive at the Capitol until hours after the mob began breaking in, leading lawmakers to propose a standalone quick reaction force that could promptly respond to emergencies.
The vote follows similarly contentious debates around creating a bipartisan 9/11-style commission to investigate the insurrection, its root causes, and the security and intelligence failures that allowed it to move forward.
On Wednesday, only 35 House Republicans joined Democrats to vote in favor of creating the commission amid objections from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and his Senate counterpart, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Herrera Beutler was one of those 35 Republicans.
Five people, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, died in connection to the Jan. 6 attack. Two other police officers on duty that day, Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood and Metropolitan Police Officer Jeffrey Smith, also later died of suicide.
More than 140 police officers were injured, including some with severe wounds, in the most severe breach of the Capitol since the War of 1812 as the rioters fought with police, breached the Senate chamber and vandalized doors to the House chamber and nearby offices.
The $1.9 billion security supplemental bill, which is based on recommendations from a task force review spearheaded by retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, focuses on repairing and rebuilding the Capitol complex’s physical infrastructure, as well as funding an enhanced security workforce.
It sets aside $40 million for fixing damage done to the Capitol during the attack.
About $529 million in the bill would go toward upgrading the building’s security, including funds to harden doors and windows, expand screening areas, add security cameras and build a retractable fencing system. Of that amount, more than a third would go toward the National Guard quick reaction force.
It would also put $8.6 million toward Capitol Police body cameras and $2.6 million for upgraded riot control gear.
In addition to the main security components, the bill funds the Justice Department’s efforts to prosecute those involved in the attacks, beef up security for members both in Washington and in their districts, and protect other institutions that could be vulnerable, such as courtrooms and judges.
Law enforcement has charged more than 400 people with crimes related to the Capitol attack.
The bill is likely to face changes in the Senate, where Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) offered lukewarm comments upon its release.
“We must make sure we are making smart investments in our security based on lessons learned,” Leahy said following the bill’s introduction last week.
Mike Lillis contributed to this report, which was updated at 1:56 p.m.