Leahy Unveils $3.7 Billion Security Package After Capitol Riot
(Bloomberg) -- Senate Appropriations Chairman Pat Leahy proposed a $3.7 billion emergency spending package aimed at strengthening security at the U.S. Capitol and other government buildings in the wake of the Jan. 6th riot, drawing immediate fire from one key Republican whose opposition raises questions about the legislation’s fate.
Leahy’s figure is about twice as large as the bill passed by the House, but touches on a broader scope of issues, including ongoing costs related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We did not budget for an insurrection, and I am glad that my Republican colleagues have joined the negotiating table on this urgent matter, but their proposal falls far short of the needs of the moment,” Leahy said.
Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, added that he hopes to get an agreement in the next few weeks in discussions with Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, and pass it before the Senate leaves for the August recess, when Capitol Police accounts are expected to start to run dry from overtime and other costs.
Shelby, however, rejected the proposal as excessive, saying Leahy’s bill was going “absolutely in the wrong direction.”
“We need to fund the police and the guard and move on,” Shelby said, pointing out that Leahy’s bill includes unrelated items, including visas for Afghans who aided the U.S. in the Afghanistan war. Shelby said that could be handled separately, as well as pandemic-related items for the Defense Department. He has proposed a $633 million alternative focusing just on preventing the Capitol Police and National Guard from an immediate funding shortfall
About half of Leahy’s proposal would go to the Pentagon, including $521 million to cover the National Guard deployment to the Capitol and $1.3 billion to address coronavirus-related costs.
About $679 million would cover security upgrades and salaries at the Capitol itself, including enhanced funding for the Capitol Police, for security details, training, body cameras, riot gear and other equipment. Hundreds of millions would go to harden the building itself against future attacks, though Leahy has insisted it remain open and accessible to the public.
His proposal also includes funding for prosecutions of people who attacked the Capitol and improved judicial security, including for court cases related to the assault and a security assessment and upgrades of federal courthouses.
Money would also go to the District of Columbia for security-related costs, as well as some unrelated items, including $150 million for the Social Security Administration for Covid-related costs.
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