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Senate negotiators reach bipartisan agreement for $2.1B in Capitol security funding, Afghan refugee assistance

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), left, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), right, during a news conference on January 9, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. (Lenin Nolly/Sipa USA/TNS)

Senate negotiators reached an agreement Tuesday on $2.1 billion in funding to fund security on Capitol Hill, reimburse authorities who responded to the Jan. 6 storming, and support relocating Afghans who assisted the U.S. during the war.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and the committee’s top Republican, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, came to a bipartisan agreement after months of negotiations.

The money would go to the National Guard after it helped in Washington, D.C., for the Jan. 6. riot and to beef up Capitol security to prevent against future attacks.

“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. And we have the moral responsibility to stand with our Afghan partners who stood with us through two decades of war,” Leahy said in a statement.

The United States Capitol Police would collectively receive more than $400 million under the agreement. Nearly $71 million of that is in response to the Jan. 6 storming that would support overtime, hiring more officers, offering hazard pay, and giving out retention bonuses. More than $31 million is going to backfill overtime.

The department was not only understaffed on Jan. 6, but later investigations showed the department was ill-prepared with tactical gear. In the months since, dozens of Capitol Hill police officers have quit.

The announcement of the deal comes on the same day several police officers delivered emotional testimony to the House select-committee that is investigating the events surrounding the attack on Jan. 6.

As he and his fellow officers were punched, kicked and sprayed with chemicals during the insurrection attempt, Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell told lawmakers, “I could feel myself losing oxygen and recall thinking to myself, ‘This is how I’m going to die.'”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y,. told reporters Tuesday he expects a vote on the funding to happen as early as “this week.”

“In large part because of the horrific events of January the 6th, the Capitol Police is running out of funding,” Schumer said. “These brave officers put their lives on the line defending the Capitol — and each and every one of us — and they are heroes, plain and simple. They are to get the funding they need.”

Shelby said in a statement Tuesday “It is essential that we provide the National Guard and Capitol Police the funding they require without further delay.”

Nearly 26,000 troops were deployed to the Capitol complex and Washington for President Joe Biden’s inauguration, following the storming. The agreement would provide roughly $521 million to reimburse the National Guard.

The Architect of the Capitol would receive $300 million to upgrade the complex — including for windows, doors, new security cameras, and more.

It would also provide $1 billion for Afghan refugee assistance and 8,000 new Afghan Special Immigrant Visas. In June, the Biden administration agreed to relocate thousands of Afghans who worked with the U.S. military as interpreters and translators while their visa applications are vetted.

That money would be split among federal agencies to, among other assistance, provide housing, transportation and other services for Afghan refugees.

If the Senate passes the bill, it will head to the House for final approval. The support of 10 Republicans is not solidified, yet, which is necessary to pass through the Senate chamber and overcome a filibuster.

The House passed a $1.9 billion spending proposal in May. It had no Republican support.

But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Tuesday if the Senate approves their measure this week, the lower chamber could vote on it before they leave for their August recess.

Leahy and Shelby want the legislation passed quickly, warning of upcoming depleting salaries among the USCP and to “prevent cancellation of summer drills for members of the Army National Guard and Air National Guard,” per the agreement.

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