House Narrowly Passes $1.9 Billion Capitol Security Bill
(Bloomberg) -- House Democrats pushed through a $1.9 billion emergency spending measure Thursday to enhance security at the U.S. Capitol in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot, despite vows by Republicans to stop it in the Senate.
The legislation was barely approved along party lines, 213-212, as a group of Democratic progressives bucked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and registered objections to the bill. Representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Cori Bush of Missouri and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts voted against it. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Jamaal Bowman of New York voted present.
Before the vote, Pelosi said the emergency spending “is urgent for us to do now.”
Republicans lined up against it. Republican Whip Steve Scalise’s office panned the effort in a release as Pelosi’s “militarization of the Capitol,” and the Senate GOP leader said this week he plans to hit “the pause button” on the bill.
GOP Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri said Thursday that House Democrats didn’t consult with the Senate before going forward with the vote.
“They made a big mistake by not reaching out and not including Senate Republicans in the discussion. I’m told that even Senate Democrats have had no input with this,” Blunt said. “I don’t know the reason that we could do anything between now and Sept. 30 that we couldn’t do as part of a normal, with hearings, appropriations process.”
Some Senate Democrats have expressed skepticism as well. Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy said he wants to provide money for enhancing security. But he stopped short of endorsing the House bill, saying Congress must make sure it’s making “smart investments in our security based on lessons learned.”
The progressive Democrats who voted against the bill said it doesn’t address what they said were the underlying causes of the riot, including White supremacy, nor does it deal with the way minority communities are treated by police.
“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,” Omar, Bush and Pressley said in a joint statement.
Bowman, who voted present, said in a separate statement that he would not support adding money to “already bloated police budgets.”
“We need to re-imagine public safety entirely and investigate those who were complicit in this attack,” he said. “Pouring billions more into policing does not accomplish that goal.”
Passage came a day after 35 Republicans voted with all House Democrats for a bill to establish an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a mob of former President Donald Trump’s supporters seeking to disrupt certification of the electoral college votes that gave Joe Biden the presidency.
The security funding legislation would pay for retractable fencing on the Capitol grounds, more officers and training for U.S. Capitol Police, as well as more money for its intelligence division. It would provide reimbursements for the National Guard and federal agencies that responded to the Jan. 6 attack. It also includes $21 million for enhanced lawmaker security in Washington and in their districts.
Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, said the bill contains many of the recommendations of a post-Jan. 6 security review headed by retired Army Lieutenant General Russel Honore and, “most importantly won the endorsement of Capitol police to meet its evolving mission.”
The top Republican on the House Administration Committee, Rodney Davis of Illinois, said Democrats were forcing a vote after walking away from negotiations last week on bipartisan legislation.
Republican Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma said GOP objections specifically include its $200 million for the creation of “a rapid response force with the D.C. National Guard” to help in emergencies. He said any such backup for the U.S. Capitol Police to protect the Capitol Complex should be under the control of, and housed within Congress.
Other Republicans said the security measures would turn the Capitol into a fortress and further separate Americans from their representatives.
Cole pointed to similar objections in the Senate, and predicted the bill as written is “destined for the legislative graveyard.”
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