The sweeping legislation, introduced by House Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, covers a range of priorities, including funding to enhance security across the Capitol grounds as well as provisions to bolster protections and increase preparedness for lawmakers, including at their district offices, and the Capitol Police force.
After the House takes up the bill, it would also need to pass the Senate before it could go to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said at a news conference Wednesday that the legislation “will protect the Capitol and all who serve and work here.”
“We cannot wait, we need to get this done,” DeLauro said at the same news conference. “We have to act, and we have to act now.”
The push to increase security is part of a multipronged approach by congressional Democrats to respond to the January attack. The House voted on Wednesday to pass legislation establishing an independent commission that would investigate the violent insurrection. Thirty-five House Republicans voted in support of the measure, which was the product of a bipartisan deal, but top GOP leaders, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, have taken a stand against it.
Democrats have argued that security upgrades are needed as well as a supplemental funding bill to address security at the Capitol in the wake of the attack incited by former President Donald Trump’s lies that the presidential election was stolen. Some Republicans have warned, however, against an overreach that they argue would effectively create a locked-down Capitol.
Partisan disagreements over how to respond to the insurrection come as a number of Republicans, in the House in particular, continue to downplay the severity of the attack.
The $1.9 billion legislation was developed in response to the findings and recommendations of a task force led by retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who was tasked by Pelosi to lead a review of Capitol security after the insurrection.
Among a number of provisions, the legislation would provide $250 million for Capitol grounds security, which could be used for physical infrastructure including “retractable, or ‘pop-in’ fencing, and security sensors,” according to a bill summary released by the House Appropriations Committee.
There would be $162.7 million to harden security safeguards for windows and doors at the Capitol as well as at House and Senate office buildings.
The plan would have $7.4 million set aside to increase security for lawmakers, including threat assessments, and $10.6 million would go toward security measures and the installation of camera systems in district offices for members.
The Capitol Police force would get $8.6 million for body cameras, $6.8 million for specialized training and $2.6 million “to procure basic riot control equipment to outfit all officers with ballistic helmets, batons, and body shields,” the bill summary states.
The legislation would set aside $200 million “to create a dedicated Quick Reaction Force to augment the Capitol Police,” according to the summary.
Additionally, the measure provides funding for efforts related to the prosecution of individuals who took part in the January 6 attack.
The bill summary says there would be $39.5 million “to process the hundreds of prosecutions of perpetrators of the January 6 insurrection, including $34 million for United States Attorneys; $3.8 million for the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice; and $1.7 million for the National Security Division of the Department of Justice.”
Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the ranking member on the Committee on Rules, outlined on the House floor Tuesday why he is against the legislation, criticizing Democrats as moving through the process too quickly.
“It’s truly disappointing that Democrats were unwilling to continue to work towards an agreement with Republicans on a matter of this magnitude. And given that the Senate is in no hurry to take up this legislation, a few additional weeks of discussion could, and likely would, have led to a bipartisan product instead of a product destined for the legislative graveyard,” Cole said.
He specifically criticized the provision that would establish a Quick Reaction Force to augment the Capitol Police, arguing that this force should be under the control of Congress instead of the DC National Guard, to prevent Capitol Hill’s further dependency on the executive branch.
Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, who serves as chairman of the Republican Study Committee Budget and Spending Task Force, told reporters on Wednesday that he is against the bill because he doesn’t know how the money will be spent.
“I will be voting against it, and here’s why: We don’t even know what the money is going to be spent on,” Hern said.
Even though Hern said a January 6 commission should be established before appropriations are made, he also told CNN he would be voting against the commission on Wednesday because he viewed the legislation as partisan.