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Congress passes $2.1 billion bill for Capitol security and Afghan visas

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Washington — The House and Senate on Thursday both approved a $2.1 billion supplemental security spending package that directs much-needed funding to the U.S. Capitol Police and National Guard, under strain following the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and bolsters federal efforts to relocate Afghans who aided U.S. troops during the war in Afghanistan.

The legislation passed the Senate with unanimous support in a 98-0 vote. It was then swiftly taken up by the House, which approved the spending bill 416 to 11. In the Senate, Republicans Roger Marshall of Kansas and Mike Rounds of South Dakota were absent from the voteThe White House backed the measure and its approval by Congress.

"We each might not have gotten everything that we wanted, but on this specific issue, we got what the country needed," Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who negotiated the deal, said after the bill's passage.

Leahy and Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, respectively, announced Tuesday they reached a deal on the emergency spending measure, though a vote was delayed after some Republicans objected to provisions related to the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program. 

Shelby urged his GOP colleagues to allow for the Senate to take up the legislation and warned if Congress did not act, there could be deadly consequences for Afghans who aided U.S. troops during the 20-year war and face threats from the Taliban.

The security spending package directs $100 million to the Capitol Police and $300 million to boost security in the Capitol, including for new cameras and hardening windows and doors. It also provides $1 billion for the Pentagon, which includes $521 million for the National Guard and $500 million to evacuate Afghan allies ahead of the U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan. Another $600 million would go to the State Department for refugee and migration assistance and $25 million to the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement for the visa program.

The Senate vote comes as the first flight of Afghan visa applicants is poised to land in the U.S. The refugees will be temporarily housed at Fort Lee, Virginia, while completing the visa process. The Biden administration this month launched its operation to support Afghans who aided the U.S. during the war and now are under threat from the Taliban.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had urged the chamber to act with urgency in passing the $2.1 billion supplemental security bill, as the Capitol Police and National Guard warned of upcoming cash crunches as a result of the January 6 assault on the Capitol.

"The last six months have pushed those who protect the U.S. Capitol to the limits in the face of unprecedented adversity," Schumer said in a Senate floor speech. "They responded heroically. We must support them now, as they so courageously supported us."

Sources told CBS News this month a fund used to pay Capitol Police officers is due to run dry in mid-August, but money could be shifted in the short-term to cover salaries through September. The National Guard, which sent 26,000 troops to help with security for President Biden's inauguration, also warned of impacts to readiness and training if it were not reimbursed the $521 million cost of its mission.

The Capitol Police, in particular, has been feeling the squeeze since the January 6 assault on the Capitol. More than 150 Capitol Police and D.C. Metropolitan Police officers were injured in the riots, and more than 70 Capitol Police officers have left its force in the six months since the attack. One Capitol Police officer died after responding to the violence January 6.

The family of officer Howard Liebengood, who died by suicide days after the attack, issued a statement following the passage of additional funding. "We are honored that Congress has created the Howard C. Liebengood Center for Wellness and increased mental health funding for USCP. Good mental health is critical to the professional and personal success of all frontline law enforcement officers, including the USCP, who bravely protect our institutions and country. We are grateful for the bi-partisan support from both Appropriations Committees and the unwavering commitment of Congresswoman Wexton and Senators Kaine and Romney. We look forward to additional reforms within USCP, and we will continue to work to honor Howie's memory through meaningful and positive change."

The $2.1 billion bill approved by the Senate includes $31.1 million to backfill expected overtime until the Capitol Police can hire more officers, as well as $4.4 million for wellness and trauma support, and $3.3 million for intelligence analysts and technical resources.

The legislation also directs $5.8 million for protective details for lawmakers in response to increased threats against them and $2.6 million for basic riot control equipment for Capitol Police officers.

The House passed its own $1.9 billion emergency security spending package last month. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters the House will take up the Senate's version.

Zak Hudak contributed to this report

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