WASHINGTON — Senators voted overwhelmingly Thursday to approve a $2.1 billion spending bill meant to shore up their own safety in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, reimburse the National Guard for a monthslong activation to secure the complex and relocate Afghans who helped the U.S. government during the war.
The 98-0 vote sends the measure to the House for final approval, where it’s expected to clear before that chamber leaves Friday for the summer recess. “As soon as they finish then we’ll take it up,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday.
A House Democratic aide not authorized to speak publicly said the chamber plans to take the measure up “immediately” once it gets the document from the Senate.
Before Senate passage of the bill, members adopted by voice vote an amendment from Tom Cotton, R-Ark., that would require the secretaries of the Defense Department and the State Department to send 10 congressional committees a report within one year of enactment detailing aspects of the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program.
“In recent years, there’s been an effort to increase the number of visas, but no administration — the Obama administration, the Trump administration, the Biden administration — has ever estimated exactly how many visas might be needed, total, in the future,” Cotton said in a brief interview Thursday. “So rather than continue this stopgap fashion, I think, Congress should get more visibility into how many Afghans worked for the U.S. coalition in positions that might make them eligible; so we can have a more thoughtful and kind of efficient approach to the SIV program.”
The report would include the total number of visas by fiscal year, the role that made the individual eligible for the visa, average processing times for applicants, the number of pending applications, the number of successful appeals and the number of people eligible to apply for the visa who never did.
Before voting on final approval of the bill, senators voted 72-26 to waive a budget point of order from Mike Braun, R-Ind., that the package violated Section 302(c) of the 1974 budget law, which “prohibits consideration of legislation from Appropriations Committee that provides new budget authority if the Committee has not yet filed its subcommittee allocations.”
Braun said during a floor speech that he believed major parts of the package could have been paid for by offsetting funding at the Defense Department and criticized both parties for not showing more fiscal restraint on deficit spending.
“It seems like Congress can only agree on one thing — deficits and debt don’t matter anymore. But they do and both parties are to blame,” Braun said.
Braun was the only Republican to speak out against the emergency spending in the bill, with other senators urging their colleagues to support it.