May 12, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Details from Dems $2 billion security proposal includes money for heirs of late House members

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi is seen speaking during a congressional hearing.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) speaks Wednesday during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing about the Capitol attack. Photo: Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images

A $2 billion request to harden the Capitol includes $521 million to cover recent National Guard call-ups, as well as money to protect the White House, vice president's residence — and pay the heirs of some late House members, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: As one lawmaker said today, "It's a lot of money." But before today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team have given little detail about the components resulting in the $2 billion price tag.

The details were provided during a weekly conference call for members of the House Democratic Caucus by members of the House Appropriations Committee who spelled out some spending.

  • The speakers were Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the committee chair, and the chairs of various Appropriations subcommittees.
  • The details are not finalized and Democrats are working with Republicans to make the emergency supplemental appropriation bipartisan.
  • "Chair DeLauro is intent on enacting an emergency supplemental appropriation to respond the January 6 insurrection," said Evan Hollander, a spokesperson for the appropriations committee. "She is engaged in bipartisan negotiations to reach an agreement on this critical funding."
  • Hollander would not comment on other aspects of the proposal.

One expense mentioned in passing was a death benefit payment to the families and heirs of the late Reps. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) and Ron Wright (R-Texas).

The major security costs include: A one-time fund to pay "unknown costs" involving the physical security of the Capitol complex, whose vulnerabilities were laid bare during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

  • These include hardening of windows and doors, potentially changing the landscape architecture of the Capitol grounds, a design study for a retractable fence and the feasibility of building visitor screening vestibules on the House and Senate sides of the Capitol.
  • The infrastructure upgrades also would include funding for personal protective equipment, as well as ventilation cleaning and upgrades to allow for telework and remote operations by certain offices within the Library of Congress.

Other expenses include:

  • Providing the federal judiciary throughout the country with security upgrades, including camera systems.
  • Additional security funding to protect federal judges following the attack on one at her home in northern New Jersey.
  • Security assessments to all federal buildings to address security vulnerabilities.

Additional money would be spent not on the Capitol but down Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House complex.

  • It would include funding for a Secret Service Civil Disturbance Unit to protect the White House, president and vice president.
  • Additional money would be spent to cover open-source intelligence collection, as well as the cost of temporary fencing installed around the White House and Blair House, the presidential guest house.
  • The Executive Branch needs the money because its costs weren't anticipated in the 2021 federal budget, the caucus was told.

A series of costs were related to law enforcement agencies and personnel.

  • The cost of the National Guard deployment that began on Jan. 6 and is scheduled to end on May 22 is $521 million.
  • The Guard presence in Washington, D.C., and around the Capitol has dwindled from 25,000 during the inauguration to 2,280 members at present.

The emergency supplemental appropriation would include benefits to recruit and retain Capitol Police, including hazard pay, retention bonuses and health and wellness resources like trauma counseling.

  • It also would pay for training and equipment upgrades, including more body armor and cameras, more canine handlers and teams with specialties around explosives.
  • The bill would include the construction of barriers for unprotected police posts, after two officers were run down while standing watch on the edge of the Capitol Grounds on Good Friday.
  • Another $9 million would be provided to the National Park Police to pay for overtime and equipment upgrades.
  • Finally, the bill would provide reimbursement to local law enforcement including the Metropolitan Police Department.

Be smart: The committee based its funding requests on a series of recommendations.

  • They came from members of Congress, the Architect of the Capitol, the Capitol Police, the inspector general of the Capitol Police and retired Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré, who Pelosi tapped to conduct an immediate security review.
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