House to Vote on Capitol Protection 05/15 09:59
The House is expected to vote next week on two bills aimed at preventing
more attacks on the U.S. Capitol, with one seeking to establish a 9/11-style
commission to study what went wrong on Jan. 6 and the other allocating $1.9
billion to address the security problems revealed by the insurrection.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House is expected to vote next week on two bills
aimed at preventing more attacks on the U.S. Capitol, with one seeking to
establish a 9/11-style commission to study what went wrong on Jan. 6 and the
other allocating $1.9 billion to address the security problems revealed by the
The top Democrat and the top Republican on the House Homeland Security
Committee on Friday unveiled their plan to form the commission after weeks of
delicate negotiations. Modeled after the revered investigation into the 9/11
terrorist attacks, their bill would establish an independent 10-member
commission, evenly divided between the two parties, that would have subpoena
power and an end-of-year deadline for completing its work.
Efforts to stand up the commission had previously stalled amid partisan
differences, with Republicans -- including Senate Republican leader Mitch
McConnell -- arguing that its scope should be widened to look at violence in
cities around the country in the past year in reaction to the killing of George
Floyd while in police custody. But the new bill appeared to be a breakthrough
after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the legislation must be bipartisan.
The emergency spending bill was also released Friday, a product of months of
reviews about what is needed to "harden" security at the Capitol after the
violent mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters pushed past police
officers and broke through windows and doors on Jan. 6. That legislation would
include money for new retractable fencing around the building, added training
and resources for the Capitol Police, and better security for members of
Congress, among other measures.
Pelosi said that protecting the Capitol and the people who work inside it is
of "the highest priority," and that a commission is imperative "to examine and
report upon the facts, causes and security relating to the terrorist mob
While both bills are expected to pass the House, it's unclear how much
Republican support they would receive. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy
said Friday he had not read the details of the Jan. 6 commission bill and did
not signal whether he would support it. In a letter to Pelosi earlier this
week, McCarthy said that any panel should not have "any predetermined
conclusions or findings" and suggested that money for security should wait
until after the commission issues a report.
The insurrection is an increasingly fraught subject in the House GOP
conference. While almost every Republican member condemned the violent mob that
day, and many criticized Trump for his role in egging them on, a growing number
of them have downplayed the attack as time has passed. At a House hearing this
week investigating the siege, one member denied there was an insurrection at
all while another said a woman who was shot and killed by police while trying
to break into the House chamber was "executed." Many other Republicans have
tried to change the subject, saying Democrats should focus on the violence in
The bill's path forward is uncertain in the 50-50 Senate, where Republicans
have been quiet on the commission in recent weeks. McConnell objected to an
initial proposal by Pelosi that would have included more Democrats than
Republicans on the panel, and said the scope should be widened to investigate
the rioting in cities. But he has not spoken about it since Pelosi endorsed the
new language that would make the commission an even partisan split.
House Democrats negotiated the bill with Republican John Katko of New York,
who was one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the insurrection
for telling his supporters that day to "fight like hell" to overturn his defeat.
The legislation does have one other prominent GOP supporter: Wyoming Rep.
Liz Cheney, who was kicked out of House GOP leadership this week for calling
out Trump for his false claims that the election was stolen from him. Cheney
also voted to impeach Trump.
"In the aftermath of national crises, such as Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy
assassination, or September 11th, our nation has established commissions so the
American people know the truth and we can prevent these events from happening
again," Cheney said in a statement.
Like the 9/11 Commission that investigated the terrorist attacks on the
U.S., the Jan. 6 commission would be granted authority to issue subpoenas to
obtain information, requiring the bipartisan agreement of both the chair and
vice chair of the commission, or through a majority vote. The commission would
be charged with issuing a final report by Dec. 31, along with recommendations
to prevent future attacks.
The security spending bill would seek to make security improvements in the
meantime, creating a quick-reaction force that could respond quickly in the
event of an attack. National Guard troops were delayed for hours on Jan. 6 as
police were beaten and overwhelmed by the rioters who broke in.
The bill includes money for new fencing -- either retractable or "pop in,"
according to Democrats -- that would protect the grounds while removing the
dark black fence that has surrounded the Capitol since Jan. 6. The legislation
says that the money cannot be used to install permanent aboveground fencing,
reflecting the wishes of most members of Congress that the area should be open
to the public.
Other improvements would be to better secure windows and doors, install new
security vestibules and cameras, and protect members with increased security at
home and in Washington. There is also money to protect federal judges who are
prosecuting the rioters and have received threats.
The legislation renames a wellness program for Capitol Police as the Howard
C. "Howie" Liebengood Center for Wellness and adds mental health counselors and
resilience specialists for trauma support. Liebengood was a Capitol Police
officer who took his own life shortly after the attack.