In hammering out the legislative branch portion of the supplemental spending bill, negotiators reduced by one-third the $64 million the House had slated for a new Capitol Police headquarters, while maintaining both chambers’ $38 million allocation for the force’s general expenses.
Even after the reductions in conference committee, the money for the Capitol Police comprised more than half of the $125 million designated for Congress in the bill funding the Iraq war. President Bush signed the $79 billion emergency appropriation into law last week.
Both the House and Senate versions of the supplemental included $125 million for the legislative branch — matching the amount initially requested by the administration — but the two chambers differed over the specific priorities.
For example, House Members wanted a much higher figure for a new police building than their Senate counterparts, whose funding level prevailed during conference. Money for the new headquarters was trimmed from $63.9 million to $40.1 million.
“This is enough to get them started on a site selection and lays the groundwork for a new headquarters,” House Appropriations Committee majority spokesman John Scofield said.
Capitol officials have deemed the facility an urgent security need.
The police have said for years that the agency is cramped to capacity in its current building — and that was before hundreds of new officers were hired in the past year and a half to increase security on Capitol Hill. Efforts to fund a new command center were put on hold two years ago when Senate negotiators prevailed in deleting money for the project from the post-Sept. 11, 2001, emergency supplemental measure.
As for the general expenses for the Capitol Police, the figure was reduced slightly to match the amount in the House bill. The Senate had wanted $38.2 million.
But the Senate succeeded in its prerogative to include funding for the Capitol Power Plant in the wartime supplemental. The figure was actually increased from $14.6 million, the amount in the Senate’s version, to $22.7 million during conference.
“Basically it’s a modernization project. This is phase two of a three-phase renovation at the power plant,” Scofield said, explaining that the refrigeration systems are antiquated and often break down.
The Senate’s provisions for other funding for the Architect of the Capitol, which oversees the power plant, also carried, including $1.1 million for the maintenance and operation of the Capitol, money that wasn’t in the House version.
However, the $18.7 million the Senate had requested for AOC general administration didn’t end up in the final version of the bill.
The version Bush signed also included $11 million for salaries and expenses for the House’s new Homeland Security Committee. The panel received $700,000 in seed money earlier this year.
The Congressional Research Service also received $1.9 million for an alternate computer facility, which both chambers had included in their own versions.
Additionally, the conference committee gave $4.9 million to the General Accounting Office to make security enhancements. The figure was virtually the same in both chambers’ bills.
Also unchanged in conference was $5.5 million for the Library of Congress to implement a public address system for the agency’s buildings to receive emergency communications.
Uncontested was another $111,000 for the Office of Compliance, primarily for hearing officers to process workplace complaints brought by legislative branch employees.