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Citing threats, Senate Republicans seek Capitol Police funding boost

Legislative Branch measure leaves out House-backed accountability changes

A U.S. Capitol Police officer patrols the Capitol Rotunda before the start of President Donald Trump's State of the Union address on Feb. 4, 2020.
A U.S. Capitol Police officer patrols the Capitol Rotunda before the start of President Donald Trump's State of the Union address on Feb. 4, 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Appropriations Committee Republicans would substantially increase spending for the Capitol Police in their $5.2 billion draft fiscal 2021 Legislative Branch appropriations bill released Tuesday, while leaving out accountability proposals the House included in its version.

The bill would direct $520.5 million to the police to protect Congress, $56.2 million above the 2020 enacted funding level. The House version — which was unveiled in the summer — would keep the department’s funding stagnant at $464.3 million.

Senate Republican appropriators noted threats against members of Congress are on pace to reach another record high.

“As highlighted by the 2017 shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, evolving threats to Congress include the physical targeting of Members of Congress. Thus far in calendar year 2020, the Capitol Police has opened more than 6,835 threat assessment cases, which is on track to surpass last year’s record of 6,955 cases,” the committee’s explanatory statement revealed. “Further, the Department has conducted more than 690 law enforcement coordinations for the congressional community.”

Since the police killing of George Floyd in May, there have been protests across the nation calling for more accountability and transparency from the police. The House bill sought to address some of these concerns within its own police department.

The House’s $4.2 billion Legislative Branch spending bill (which did not include Senate-only spending) would mandate the Capitol Police to provide a user-friendly system of arrest data, give reports on efforts to combat racial profiling and make its records available to the public.

It would also require the department to develop a policy for publicly sharing information “that follows the spirit of” the Freedom of Information Act, a law the Capitol Police is not bound to. The department’s inspector general reports would also be made public “if they do not compromise law enforcement activities, national security, or Congressional security and processes without redaction.”

None of those measures were mentioned in the Senate draft bill. Also left out was House language that would require the Architect of the Capitol to remove 14 statues and two busts from the Capitol depicting persons “with unambiguous records of racial intolerance,” including those who served in the Confederate army.

Like the House version, however, lawmakers will not receive a pay raise. Their salaries have been unchanged since 2009.

Democrats and Republicans will seek to hammer out points of contention before the Dec. 11 deadline when the current stopgap funding law expires. There are no Senate Appropriations markups planned and the bills are expected to go straight into an informal conference with the House.

Other funding levels include:

  • The Government Accountability Office would receive $650 million, $20 million above the fiscal 2020 enacted level.
  • The Architect of the Capitol would get $531.1 million, $11.6 million below the enacted level, not including proposed House spending on its buildings.
  • The Library of Congress would get $742.5 million, $17.2 million above the enacted level.
  • The Congressional Budget Office would get $56 million, $1.1 million above the enacted level.
  • The Government Publishing Office would get $117 million, equal to the enacted level.

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