Deal reached on $2 billion Capitol security supplemental, Leahy says

The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
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Jennifer Shutt CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Senate negotiators agreed Tuesday on a roughly $2 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 Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick J. Leahy.

A bipartisan agreement between the Vermont Democrat 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, adding that a vote could happen as soon as Tuesday, though Wednesday was more likely.

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The money would be used to pay bills related to the Jan. 6 insurrection and to allow Afghans endangered by the pending withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan to receive special immigrant visas, according to the source, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

The bill would include about $1 billion for the Defense Department, with $500 million to reimburse the National Guard for the cost of securing the Capitol complex after the attack and about $500 million for Afghan visas, according to the source.

The package would provide approximately $600 million to the State Department for Afghan visas and roughly $25 million for the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement for Afghan refugees.

The U.S. Capitol Police would receive about $100 million, and $300 million would be provided for enhanced Capitol security measures.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer told reporters Tuesday that he understands the Senate was expected to vote on the package as soon as this week.

Text of the Senate supplemental hadn’t yet been unveiled.

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.

If the Senate approves the bipartisan bill, it will head to the House for final approval.

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