Senate Democrats introduce bill to replenish Capitol Police, National Guard coffers
WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats unveiled a plan Monday to quickly replenish accounts that fund U.S. Capitol Police officers and National Guard salaries, both of which are expected to run out as early as next month due to the amount of overtime tallied for protecting the Capitol complex after the Jan. 6 insurrection. Republicans could balk and block it.
Weeks after warning that the Capitol Police and National Guard would have to furlough officers or make drastic cuts to accommodate the depleting funds as soon as mid-August, Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., introduced his own $3.7 billion proposal Monday in an effort to force Republicans to fund the police forces. Appropriations Vice Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., also publicly introduced his own legislation with a much less drastic price tag of $633 million, which Democrats already consider a nonstarter because it does not fully address all costs incurred around Jan. 6 or other unexpected losses.
“We did not budget for an insurrection,” Leahy said Monday on the Senate floor. “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 now.”
Leahy’s insistence to pass his legislation comes as a $1.9 billion emergency supplemental bill that would replenish overtime expenses as well as fund significant new security measures around the Capitol complex stalls in the Senate. Republicans have expressed skepticism over the House’s large funding proposal, arguing that it’s too broad and should allocate money once the extent of damages and security necessary is fully investigated.
While bipartisan support exists to ensure that Capitol Police officers and National Guard members earn their pay, striking a deal depends on compromising on scope.
The Democratic proposal almost doubles the amount of spending that narrowly passed the House in May by also redirecting funds to address pandemic-related costs incurred by the Department of Defense and speed up the Afghan Special Immigration Visas, including $100 million in aide to Afghan refugees. As for the Capitol Police, the bill would replenish the overtime account with $31.1 million.
While Shelby acknowledged that visas for Afghan immigrants should be addressed soon, he said there’s no need to address it in the supplemental legislation, describing the Democratic proposal as going “absolutely the wrong direction.”
“It’s been said all of our lives, ‘It’s not what you want, it’s what you need.’ We have to fund the police. We have to fund the Guard and move on,” Shelby told reporters in the Capitol after Leahy’s announcement.
“I’ve been here long enough to know that a promise to do it later is no promise at all,” Leahy said in response to Republicans wanting to address issues later.
Shelby’s proposal hones in on funding only the two forces, allocating $632.9 million to fund both, including more than $37 million for officer pay, with $3.6 million going toward retention bonuses and $6.9 million for hazard pay. It does not fund extra security measures for the Capitol building, as Democrats in both chambers demand, in large part because Republicans are waiting for the Architect of the Capitol and the Army Corps of Engineers to finish their comprehensive assessment of costs incurred on Jan. 6 and how much more funding will be appropriate to strengthen Capitol security.
It’s unlikely that the Democratic proposal would get the necessary 10 Republican votes necessary to pass legislation, given that the smaller House-approved proposal has not had luck overcoming the Senate filibuster. Moreover, a heftier price tag on a security supplemental bill could make it less likely to pass in the House, where members of the liberal “Squad” almost sank the legislation after members said it amounted to giving more money to the police rather than solving bigger problems.
“A bill that pours $1.9 billion into increased police surveillance and force without addressing the underlying threats of organized and violent white supremacy, radicalization, and disinformation that led to this attack will not prevent it from happening again,” Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Cori Bush, D-Mo., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., said at the time.
Democrats, however, are already turning Republicans’ attacks concerning “defund the police” back on them, noting that they deserve the moniker if the party of law and order again unites to vote against a police funding bill.
“I’m going to bring up my own bill and if they want to block it, they want to fight against it, they want to say we can’t pay the National Guard for protecting the U.S. Capitol - if they say we can’t pay the police officers to protect their own lives, let them stand up and say it. Don’t hide behind a refusal to bring a bill, vote up or down,” Leahy told reporters on Capitol Hill.