Despite looming financial headaches for the National Guard, congressional leaders remain far apart on plans for a new Capitol Hill security supplemental plan containing hundreds of millions of dollars for the service.
On Monday, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., introduced a new $3.7 billion proposal to provide money for security upgrades to the congressional campus, bulk up Capitol Police training and equipment, and cover $521 million in unexpected Guard costs related to the four-month deployment to Capitol Hill in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on Congress.
The measure is nearly double the $1.9 billion plan approved by House lawmakers for campus security earlier this year, which also had the $521 million in Guard reimbursement funds.
Leahy’s plan also includes $100 million to emergency aid for Afghan refugees looking to leave the country as U.S. troops depart from that country, $761 million for military health care costs related to coronavirus testing, and $549 million to cover cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment costs related to military activities.
“A violent insurrection happened. A pandemic happened. And the president announced the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan,” Leahy said in a Senate floor speech on Monday. “These events created urgent needs that must be met now.”
Nearly 26,000 National Guard troops were mobilized to provide security around Washington D.C. earlier this year. Guard leaders have said that without funding to reimburse those unexpected costs, they’ll be forced to curtail training in August and September to cover the financial shortfall.
But House Republicans offered little support for the House supplemental, and Senate Republicans have said they won’t support the even more expensive plan from Leahy.
Before Leahy’s proposal was unveiled, Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Richard Shelby, R-Ala., offered a $633 million supplemental, including the Guard reimbursement money and some new funding for Capitol Police operations, but not much else.
“We all agree we must provide desperately-needed funding for the Capitol Police and National Guard,” Shelby said in a statement Tuesday.
“Funding for the Capitol Police and National Guard must not be held hostage because the Democrats insist on billions more in spending that lacks full support at this time. The clock is ticking. Let’s pass what we all agree on.”
House lawmakers also included in their security supplemental proposal about $200 million to set up a quick reaction force of National Guard members to respond to future violence or threats on Capitol Hill.
Leahy’s plan would instead set up a new U.S. Capitol Protection Task Force at a cost of about $27 million, made up of “mainly of law enforcement officers who have had significant training and experience in handling demonstrations, riots and and other large scale events” rather than Guard members. Shelby did not include either idea in his plans.
Lawmakers are expected to break in early August for a summer recess. Whether any plan can advance through both chambers in the next few weeks is unclear, leaving the Guard training issues in doubt.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.