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Senate passes $2.1 billion aid bill for Capitol security and Afghan refugees

Jennifer Shutt, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., and ranking member Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., cited the need to help the police who defended lawmakers on Jan. 6 and those Afghans who backed the U.S. intervention in that country for the last two decades.

“We must support those who supported us — that’s not just a political or economic responsibility, that’s a moral responsibility,” Leahy said. Without additional funds, he added, the Capitol Police would deplete “salaries’ funding in literally a matter of weeks” and National Guard units “all over the country would be forced to cancel needed training.”

Added Leahy: “If we did nothing there would be a security crisis entirely of our own making.”

The White House released a statement of administration policy during the vote series, announcing it supported the bipartisan agreement and urging its passage. That endorsement should give it a lift when the measure goes back to the narrowly divided House, where some progressives have expressed concerns with the Senate deal.

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., told reporters Thursday she didn’t like that the Senate took money for Capitol custodian pay out of the House-passed version, for instance.

“I feel like the people that look after the Capitol deserve that pay,” Jayapal said. “So I think we’ve got to make sure that some pieces are in there so that the people who work in this building, experienced so much trauma, are actually able to get compensated for that work. So there are a few things like that that I think we’re looking at, and obviously if you take those things out, you may lose more members.”

 

Jayapal voted for the House bill, but three of her progressive colleagues did not — and three others voted “present” — due to concerns over aid to law enforcement without restrictions on police conduct. The end result was a 213-212 squeaker on that chamber’s $1.9 billion version in May.

The Senate package trims funding that was in the House version, including money for the House and Senate sergeant-at-arms to fund security upgrades at district offices, coordinate member security while traveling and conduct an enhanced security and threat assessment.

The Senate added $1.1 billion that wasn’t in the House version to help relocate Afghans who would likely face repercussions following the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The money would be divided up between three federal departments with $600 million for the State Department, $500 million for the Defense Department and $25 million for the Health and Human Services Department.

The Senate bill would match the House’s $521 million to reimburse the National Guard, though senators did not include $200 million to create a “rapid response force” within the D.C. National Guard. There were bipartisan concerns about taking such a task out of the hands of civilian law enforcement.

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