Statement of Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) On the Bipartisan Senate Capitol Security Supplemental Appropriations Bill. (The bill subsequently passed the Senate unanimously and then was approved by the House. It now goes to President Biden, who is expected to sign it.)
Thursday, July 29, 2021
I rise on the Senate Floor today to urge that the Senate take up and pass H.R. 3237, the Emergency Security Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, with an amendment at the desk.
The amendment is the result of bipartisan compromise between myself and Vice Chairman Shelby, and I want to thank him for his hard work and his friendship. This $2.1 billion dollar package is designed to address the aftermath of the violent insurrection that took place on January 6, heal the remaining scars of the COVID pandemic on the Capitol complex, and provide the resources we need to ensure the safety of our Afghan partners as we conclude our mission in that country.
If we do not act, the Capitol Police will deplete salaries funding in a matter of weeks, and the National Guard will be forced to cancel needed training to carry out their mission at home and abroad. Doing nothing would be a security crisis entirely of our own making.
Our bill prevents that crisis and provides the Capitol Police with $70.7 million in resources for overtime pay, retention bonuses, mental health services, new equipment and training. Since January 6, 73 officers have left the Capitol Police. That is not sustainable, and we must make a strong statement of support for those officers who defended this building and all it stands for on that terrible day.
This week, the nation is hearing the testimony of the officers who fought the violent, insurrectionist mob on that day. Their trauma is real, and it cannot be brushed aside.
We provide $521 million to fully fund the cost of the National Guard deployment to Capitol Hill. From around the country - including from my own state of Vermont - the women and men of the National Guard responded without hesitation to our call for help. We should not hesitate to reimburse those costs.
But that is not all we need to do. We need to secure the Capitol complex. On January 6, shattered windows and doors were broadcast to the world, laying bare that the seat of our democracy is not some impenetrable fortress. We cannot just replace the windows and doors that were broken and say the problem is fixed. We need to secure the entire complex, including the office buildings where thousands of public servants work and countless constituents visit.
Our bill provides $300 million to harden accessible windows and doors of the Capitol Building and Senate and House office buildings and to install new security cameras around the complex.
Our bill also fulfills our responsibility to support the dedicated public servants who worked overtime to clean up the mess left by a violent mob and diligently worked to ensure our safety during the darkest hours of the pandemic. We must support those who support us. That means paying for the costs we have incurred protecting staff, members, and the entire Capitol community from COVID, including cleaning costs and personal protective equipment, none of which has been paid for. Until now, we have covered the costs by robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Our bill addresses this by providing $42.1 million to reimburse the costs of cleaning, personal protective equipment, telework equipment, and the salaries of employees and contractors who would have been laid off in the height of the pandemic.
Finally, we must stand with the brave Afghans who supported our mission through two decades of war. By now, we have all seen the reports of men and women being summarily executed in the street. The slaughter will only escalate. We must provide resources for additional special immigrant visas (SIVs) for translators and other Afghans who worked with Americans over the past two decades, as well as for additional humanitarian relief to Afghan refugees.
Our bill does just that. It provides $1.125 billion to fulfill our commitment to these brave Afghans. These funds will support emergency transportation, housing, and other essential services to our Afghan partners coming to the U.S. under Special Immigrant Visas, and humanitarian aid for the inevitable flood of Afghans fleeing to neighboring countries, which the United Nations estimates may swell to 500,000 refugees in just the next few months.
We have also increased the number of Afghan Special Immigrant Visas by 8,000 and made improvements to strengthen the program and expand the reach of its protections.
There is bipartisan understanding that this is an urgent need, and we have a moral responsibility to address it immediately.
Some will say we should only do the bare minimum. Some will say let’s take care of the most pressing needs now and save the rest for later. But, I have served in the United States Senate long enough to know that a promise to do something later is no promise at all. I cannot accept a piecemeal approach to the urgent security needs facing our nation.
Vice Chairman Shelby has a proven track record of reaching bipartisan compromise. This agreement does not include everything I want, it includes some items that he would have preferred not be included, but it is a strong, bipartisan bill.
A pandemic happened. A violent insurrection happened. And the President announced the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. The needs are urgent, and we must address them now. So I am urging all Senators to support and pass this bill today.