House passes security bill in response to January 6 Capitol attacks
Washington DC – The House passed a $1.9-billion spending bill on Thursday that Democrats hope will pay for expenses incurred since the January 6 insurrection, bolster the Capitol’s police force, and improve the complex’s security.
The 213-212 vote was mostly along party lines, with three Democrats voting against the bill, three voting present, and no Republicans voting in favor. The Senate will likely rewrite the bill amid objections from Republicans as well as the top Democrat on that chamber’s Appropriations committee.
Representative Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, told reporters that she didn’t feel Democratic leaders sufficiently explained how it would increase security.
"To be honest, we have not really been made to understand how the money will actually increase the safety... and I could just not justify this vote," she told reporters.
Democratic representatives Cori Bush, from Missouri, and Ayanna Pressley, of Massachusetts, also voted against approval.
Democratic representatives Jamaal Bowman and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, both of New York, and Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan, voted present.
The package would provide $200 million for a "quick reaction force" designed to support and augment the US Capitol Police.
Republicans during Thursday’s House floor debate voiced objections that the new unit would be housed within the DC National Guard, and not under the authority of Congress.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, also opposes putting the Guard in charge of such a unit instead of under the control of civilian law enforcement.
"I have a great deal of admiration for the National Guard. Our National Guard does things all over the world as well as when they have a disaster at home," Leahy said Wednesday.
"But we’re talking about trained police response. And that’s a different type of thing. I’d rather see the money going into making sure our police have all the training, money and equipment they need. That appeals to me more than having a permanent military unit here."
Leahy didn’t rule out going to conference with the House, but said he expects negotiations between parties and chambers to continue with some "major ones early next week."
Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, the top Republican on the Legislative Branch appropriations subcommittee, criticized House Democrats for moving forward with a bill before the Architect of the Capitol completes a full security assessment and before the House Administration Committee addresses the structure of the Capitol Police board.
She argued that the report from Retired General Russel L. Honore was incomplete because it only looked at the House side of the Capitol, not the Senate.
"That’s part of the challenge – is that we’re funding something that is incomplete," Herrera Beutler said. "We would be better served by holding this until the Architect of the Capitol completes their assessment on both sides of the Capitol complex and the entire grounds before allocating sufficient sums of money."
House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, said Congress "cannot wait until the report of a commission" to advance legislation that would pay bills associated with the insurrection by pro-Trump supporters and increase security throughout the Capitol complex to prevent another attack.
"Congress owes it to every single person who works in or visits the United States Capitol to provide funding to recover, rebuild and keep all who serve in the legislative branch safe," DeLauro said.
How will the money be spent?
The Capitol Police, which is under scrutiny after being overpowered by rioters, would receive $80 million, of which $44 million is for the department’s response to the January 6 attack. Line items include:
- $31.1 million for salaries to backfill overtime until the department can hire and train more officers, a process that will take years.
- $3.32 million for human and technical resources within the Intelligence Division, which was found to have serious shortcomings in the lead-up to the pro-Trump insurrection.
- $5.04 million for equipment and services.
- $4.41 million for wellness and trauma support, including six new mental health counselors and wellness resilience specialists.
The Justice Department, which continues to investigate and prosecute the alleged perpetrators of the January 6 attack, would receive $34 million for United States attorneys, $3.8 million for the department’s criminal division, and $1.7 million for the National Security Division.
The bill would also reimburse an array of law enforcement agencies for their response to the Capitol attack.
$250 million is slated for "future needs stemming from the ongoing security assessments" including potential installation of retractable or "pop-in" fencing around the Capitol complex.
The bill would provide funds to upgrade windows and doors, boost screening infrastructure, and install security cameras.
Republicans tried to include Israeli defense spending in the bill
Before final passage, Republicans tried a procedural maneuver that would have sidelined the underlying bill.
The GOP motion to recommit was intended to put lawmakers on record backing the addition of $500 million to the underlying bill to bolster Israeli defenses, while striking the contents of the underlying bill.
Of that total, $73 million would be for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, which is used to intercept rocket attacks and has been seen widely during the last week through photos of the dome activating at night.
In the end, no Democrats took the bait on the Republican motion, which would have sent the entire Capitol security bill back to committee. It was rejected 209-218.
Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire