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House passes spending bill to boost Capitol Police and Hill staffer pay

The Hill logo The Hill 7/29/2021 Cristina Marcos and Naomi Jagoda
a chain link fence: House passes spending bill to boost Capitol Police and Hill staffer pay © AP/Pool House passes spending bill to boost Capitol Police and Hill staffer pay

The House on Wednesday passed a bill to increase funding for the Capitol Police months after the Jan. 6 insurrection and boost Capitol Hill staffer pay as part of a spending measure for legislative branch operations.

The legislation, which passed largely along party lines 215-207, is the first of the 12 annual appropriations bills for the 2022 fiscal year to pass the chamber. No GOP lawmaker voted yes while three Democrats -- Reps. Cori Bush (Mo.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) -- voted no.

Passage of the bill comes a day after the House select committee dedicated to investigating the events of Jan. 6 held its first hearing with four police officers, who gave emotional testimony recounting their harrowing experiences defending the Capitol that day.

The bill would provide $604 million for the Capitol Police, an increase of $88 million from the enacted level for this year. That funding would allow the Capitol Police to hire up to 2,112 sworn officers and 450 civilian members of the force.

"It gives these heroes the funding, the resources, and the training they need to ensure what happened on January 6 never happens again, and it also says, we respect what you do," said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).

Another provision would direct the Architect of the Capitol to procure a plaque that "commends the examples of bravery and service-above-self" shown by the police officers and law enforcement agencies that defended the Capitol on Jan 6.

The plaque would be permanently displayed at an unspecified location on the Capitol's west front.

But Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), the top Republican on the Appropriations subcommittee that handles funding for the legislative branch, said that the bill didn't go far enough in making reforms to the Capitol Police in the wake of Jan. 6. Republicans have been pushing for reforms to the Capitol Police Board, which oversees the police force and allows for coordination with the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms.

"That is a real sticking point. While including funding to hire more officers and to get more equipment is a necessary step -- I would go to bat for that any day of the week -- we will never see lasting improvement to the operation of the force or officer morale without these necessary reforms," Herrera Beutler said.

The House also passed a supplemental spending bill in May to fortify security at the Capitol to address the aftermath of Jan. 6, but it stalled in the Senate for weeks. Senators reached a roughly $2 billion deal on Tuesday to provide new funding for the Capitol Police after warnings that the agency could run out of funding in August.

The Senate could take up the bill, which would also reimburse the National Guard and fund Capitol security improvements, as soon as this week.

The $4.8 billion legislative branch funding bill would further increase the basic office budgets for House members by $134 million in an effort to boost staffers' pay to help address the turnover of low-paid Capitol Hill aides leaving for more lucrative jobs elsewhere. It also includes $18.2 million to pay interns in lawmaker and House committee offices.

But it would maintain the lawmaker pay freeze that's been in place since 2009.

"This has been a priority for me as I recognize the important role of expanding pay and benefits for our staff as we strive to recruit a more diverse workforce in our offices, and then to retain these staff instead of losing them to the private sector," said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee overseeing legislative branch funding.

Another provision on the bill would enact a change that House Democrats have been pushing for more than a year: remove the statues and other artwork in the Capitol honoring people who served the Confederacy or otherwise worked to uphold slavery.

The House passed separate legislation last month that would do just that, which drew the support of all Democrats and 67 Republicans.

The House is also expected to take up a package later this week that includes an additional seven of the government funding bills before leaving Washington for its August recess.

The Senate has not yet taken up any appropriations bills for fiscal 2022, which starts Oct. 1.

The House also passed a separate bill on Wednesday, by a vote of 217-212, that would provide $62 billion in funding for the State Department and other diplomatic and foreign policy programs. Three Democrats joined all Republicans in opposition.

The bill includes $10.6 billion to help communities around the world recover from the coronavirus pandemic, and more than $3 billion aimed at addressing climate change and supporting other environmental programs.

The measure also includes a number of provisions focused on women's health, including a funding increase for bilateral family planning and an increase in the U.S. contribution to the United Nations Population Fund. It also would permanently repeal a policy that has been in place during recent Republican administrations that requires foreign groups that receive family-planning aid from the U.S. government to not provide information or services related to abortions.

"The resources provided in this bill are based on the fundamental generosity of the American people," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the bill. "But they also protect and advance our national security, economic prosperity and global leadership."

Republicans said that the bill provides critical national security funding, but also includes some spending that is excessive. They also took issue with the abortion and environmental related provisions.

"Despite some areas of agreement, the unrestrained spending and unprecedented partisan riders require that I oppose this legislation," said Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), the top Republican on the subcommittee.

This article was updated at 9:28 p.m.

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