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Urgent Capitol security needs put spotlight on ‘sleepy’ spending bill

Ryan, Reed talking, with draft supplemental text circulating

House Legislative Branch Appropriations Chairman Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, said a draft bill being circulated would increase security spending for the Capitol.
House Legislative Branch Appropriations Chairman Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, said a draft bill being circulated would increase security spending for the Capitol. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A draft of an emergency supplemental spending bill for Capitol security and costs associated with the Jan. 6 attack on Congress is circulating in the House and could see floor action as soon as next month.

House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, has draft text but wouldn’t disclose the topline number, given that other committee members hadn’t seen the draft yet.

The draft is focused on recommendations made by retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, according to Ryan, along with funding for additional Capitol Police positions, mental health support for the force and repairs and “hardening” of windows and doors at the Capitol.

Honoré’s report on the shortfalls and failures on Jan. 6 was released in early March and urged Congress to revamp its security apparatus by adding hundreds of new police officers, creating a quick-reaction force and installing a new mobile and retractable fencing system.

“We are trying to take into consideration understanding what happened, how do we account for that and what we need to do to prevent this from happening again,” House Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said on Thursday.

Earlier this week, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said he is aiming to have the security spending bill on the floor in May. DeLauro said Thursday that she’d like to have it moving at the committee level this month.

Ryan said that there still needs to be more discussion with the Architect of the Capitol and other key leaders on Capitol Hill before the draft language could be finalized into bill text for committee or floor consideration.

“The Legislative Branch Appropriations bill, which obviously is the smallest bill in a sleepy kind of subcommittee, is a little more front and center, so we’re gonna have to do some things that we haven’t normally done so. And that means thinking ahead,” Ryan told CQ Roll Call Thursday.

He and Senate Legislative Branch Subcommittee Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., have been in communication about the needs they hope to address in the supplemental spending bill. The Senate does not yet have a draft of its own, however.

“We’re in a new reality. So, bottom line, and I’ve been talking to Jack about it, we’ve got to look at all of this differently,” said Ryan.

In the Senate, Reed says he wants to get the supplemental funding bill done “promptly,” but envisions a narrow focus on costs already racked up since the Jan. 6 attack, not funding for future projects or anticipated costs of an overhaul of security that may come once the numerous reports and analysis of the attack and the gaps it exposed are completed.

“The supplemental is, in a sense, looking back at what we have to make up,” Reed told CQ Roll Call this week.

But he expects the Fiscal 2022 Legislative Branch spending bills to fund much of the reevaluation of security that is anticipated. His panel hosted its first hearing of the Fiscal 2022 cycle Wednesday, with testimony from acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman.

“Obviously, Jan. 6 exposed needs, which we have to address,” said Reed. “And we’re also waiting for some analysis that is being done about what proper security, posture both personnel and structural, we need.”

Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., is taking the lead on that. He told reporters Wednesday he wants to understand security issues throughout the Capitol Hill complex and details about how additional money would be spent before advancing a supplemental spending bill.

“I told everybody, ‘step back and let’s see exactly what we need.’ If we need money, of course, the money will be there. But let’s not just spend the money and then ask what we do with it,” Leahy said.

Jessica Wehrman, Jennifer Shutt,d Lindsey McPherson, Chris Cioffi and Chris Marquette contributed to this story.

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