Leahy announces $2.1 billion bipartisan spending bill for Capitol security, Afghan refugees

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy speaks at a press conference May 7, 2021. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Vermont’s senior U.S. senator announced a bipartisan agreement Tuesday for funding for Capitol security and Afghan resettlement assistance.

The $2.1 billion supplemental spending bill was worked out by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman, and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the vice chair. Leahy initially proposed a $3.7 billion supplemental spending bill July 12.

The Capitol Police will run out of money to pay salaries as of next month, and are facing other budget shortfalls, Leahy said when he introduced the security supplemental bill. His proposal includes $70.7 million for the Capitol Police, with nearly half that amount earmarked for overtime, hazard pay and retention bonuses. Money for riot gear and other equipment, mental health support and specialized training for officers is also part of the $70.7 million.

Much of the proposed funding stems from the Jan. 6 insurrection and protecting the Capitol.

“My memory of the growing roar of that mob echoing down the hallway as the Capitol Police whisked us to safety has not faded, nor has it faded from the consciousness of the American public,” Leahy said in a floor speech announcing the original bill July 12.

In addition to reimbursements for the National Guard and other security partners, the bill announced Tuesday includes money for security improvements at the Capitol Complex, such as new cameras and upgrades to accessible windows and doors.

“We have the responsibility to take care of the Capitol Police in the wake of their incredible service on Jan. 6, and to reimburse our National Guard for costs incurred protecting the Capitol. We have the responsibility to pay for costs we have already incurred as a result of the pandemic,” Leahy said in announcing the agreement.

The bill proposes more than $42 million in reimbursements related to pandemic expenses. 

With U.S. combat troops withdrawing from Afghanistan, the bill would also supply funds to the Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of State to support immigration for Afghan refugees. 

The $600 million earmarked for the Department of State would go toward transport, housing, and assisting Afghan refugees in adjacent countries and supporting the Afghan Special Immigrant Visas program.

“We have the moral responsibility to stand with our Afghan partners who stood with us through two decades of war,” Leahy said in the press release.

In a floor speech today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, praised the agreement.

“I was pleased to hear the Republican leader support this supplemental appropriations bill this morning, and I look forward to working with our Republican colleagues to swiftly pass this legislation through the Senate,” he said.

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