Congress Passes Emergency Capitol Security Funding

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Congress Passes Emergency Capitol Security Funding
The bipartisan deal was struck in the Senate earlier this week and sailed through both chambers Thursday.

Congress has overwhelmingly passed emergency legislation that would bolster security at the Capitol, repay outstanding debts from the violent Jan. 6 insurrection and increase the number of visas for allies who worked alongside Americans in the Afghanistan war.

The $2.1 billion bill now goes to President Joe Biden for his signature. The Senate approved the legislation early Thursday afternoon, 98-0, and the House passed it immediately afterward, 416-11.

Senators struck a bipartisan agreement on the legislation this week, two months after the House had passed a bill that would have provided around twice as much for Capitol security. But House leaders said they would back the Senate version anyway, arguing the money is urgently needed for the Capitol Police and for the translators and others who worked closely with U.S. government troops and civilians in Afghanistan.

The bill loosens some requirements for the visas, which lawmakers say are especially pressing as the U.S. military withdrawal enters its final weeks and Afghan allies face possible retaliation from the Taliban.

The money for the Capitol — including for police salaries, the National Guard and to better secure windows and doors around the building — comes more than six months after the insurrection by former President Donald Trump’s supporters. The broad support in both chambers is a rare note of agreement between the two parties in response to the attack, as many Republicans still loyal to Trump have avoided the subject. The former president's loyalists brutally beat police and hundreds of them broke into the building, interrupting the certification of Biden's election win.

Democrats have said that if Congress didn't pass the bill, money would start running out for officers’ salaries by August and that the National Guard might have to cancel some training programs.

“We can’t let that happen,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said before the vote. He said the agreement “shouldn’t have taken this long” but that passing the legislation is living up to Congress’ responsibility to keep the Capitol safe “and to make sure that the people who risk their lives for us and protect us get the help they need.”

The bill’s passage comes after four police officers who fought off the rioters in the Jan. 6 attack testified in an emotional House hearing on Tuesday and detailed the “medieval” battle in which they were beaten and verbally assaulted. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested on Wednesday that the hearing had perhaps “jarred the Senate to move in a bipartisan way to pass this legislation.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.