As threats rise, Congress agrees on extra money for Capitol Police
Attack on Paul Pelosi in late October sparked calls for more funding in the coming fiscal year
As part of a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package released Tuesday, the $6.9 billion fiscal 2023 Legislative Branch portion would give a boost to the Capitol Police as the force grapples with threats against lawmakers.
The Legislative Branch funding bill marks a $975 million, or roughly 16.5 percent, increase over fiscal 2022 enacted levels. It’s the smallest of the 12 bills in the omnibus package but has taken on larger importance after the Capitol attack of Jan. 6, 2021, and the recent assault on the husband of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The measure includes a nearly 22 percent funding boost for the Capitol Police, more than the increase of 17.5 percent that House appropriators had proposed this summer. The $734.6 million total would allow the department to hire more staff, bringing its head count as high as 2,126 officers and 567 civilians. The Architect of the Capitol would also receive $402.9 million specifically for the Capitol Police building, grounds and security, as part of the $1.3 billion total appropriation to the AOC.
Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger had called for extra funding after the late October attack at the speaker’s home in San Francisco, during which an assailant bashed Paul Pelosi’s head with a hammer.
Threats against members of Congress have increased 400 percent over the past six years, with more than 9,000 threats so far in 2022, Manger said this week during testimony before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.
While staffing and morale problems have plagued the department since a pro-Trump mob invaded the Capitol last year, the focus now has shifted to how to keep members safe outside the immediate campus, Manger said.
“What we’ve done in the past year or so has addressed the security here at the Capitol. What we really have to focus on now are the threats against members . . . in your home districts as well,” he told the committee.
Money for staffing, internships
The Members’ Representational Allowance, known as the MRA, which funds House office budgets and staffer salaries, would receive $810 million, a more modest increase than the 21 percent boost it got in fiscal 2022.
The bill would expand congressional internship funding on the House side to $24.3 million, an increase of $6.1 million over fiscal 2022. It would provide $46,800 per member office for interns, an increase of $11,800 per member, to support paying a living wage to interns.
It also would provide $8 million to the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights, a roughly 6 percent increase above the fiscal 2022 level. The agency told appropriators it would need that money to handle elections and other union-related matters expected to arise after a House decision allowing staff to form unions.
The House adopted a resolution in May that effectively removes exceptions to certain labor laws for House staffers, finishing a process started in 1995. It granted nearly 9,100 House staffers the ability to form unions if they choose, and more than a dozen offices have filed union election petitions so far.
Democrats did not get everything they wanted. They had hoped to allow congressional offices to hire recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as Dreamers. And they had targeted Confederate statues in the House version of the spending bill, proposing a plan to remove them from the Capitol, along with “statues of white supremacists Charles Aycock, John C. Calhoun and James Paul Clarke and the bust of Roger B. Taney.”
Neither of those policy riders survived, though Democrats were not entirely disappointed. Earlier this month, Congress managed to pass a narrower measure to remove the bust of Taney from its prominent place in the building. The former Supreme Court chief justice wrote the infamous Dred Scott decision in 1857, ruling that African Americans were not U.S. citizens.
Last week, the Senate cleared a one-week continuing resolution to keep the government funded through Dec. 23, as Appropriations Committee leaders distributed final spending allocations to their dozen subcommittees to ready the sprawling omnibus package unveiled Tuesday morning. Congress must pass the bill by the end of the week to avoid a government shutdown.
The bill would also provide:
- $828.5 million for the Library of Congress, $34.5 million more than fiscal 2022;
- $790.3 million for the Government Accountability Office, $71 million more than fiscal 2022;
- $129.9 million for the Government Publishing Office, $5.6 million more than fiscal 2022;
- $63.2 million for the Congressional Budget Office, $2.3 million more than fiscal 2022.