The House has passed a bill that would give a whopping $1.9 billion in funding to strengthen security at the US Capitol after the pro-Trump riot there in January. Yet the Democrats were divided, and it passed by a single vote.
The bill passed on Thursday by 213 votes to 212, with all Republicans present voting against it, three Democrats voting ‘present’ and three crossing party lines to oppose the security splashout. The Democrats who opposed – Reps Ilhan Omar (Minnesota), Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts) and Cori Bush (Missouri) are all members of the so-called ‘squad’ – a group of progressive women elected to Congress in 2018. Fellow ‘squad’ members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York) and Rashida Tlaib (Michigan) voted ‘present,’ as did Jamaal Bowman (New York).
Led by @IlhanMN, several members of the Squad, echoed by various House Republicans, have warned of the dangers of intensifying the security state and starting a Domestic War on Terror as a response to the Jan. 6 riot. Good to see them following-through with an unpopular position: pic.twitter.com/XOavuoX3RG
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) May 20, 2021
Though the squad members are vehemently anti-Trump, they have opposed expanding domestic terror laws in the wake of the January riot. However, their stated concern was less for the welfare of Donald Trump’s predominantly white supporters, but for the “black, brown, indigenous, people of color and leftist groups” Tlaib claimed would be targeted by any such laws.
The bill that passed on Thursday would dramatically expand security around the Capitol. Nearly $700 million would be used to pay the Capitol Police, the DC police, the National Guard and other federal agencies that responded on the day of the riot and that beefed up their presence in the city afterwards.
Among other provisions, $200 million would be used to set up a ‘quick reaction force’ to back up Capitol Police in any future emergencies, $3.3 million to bolster the department’s intelligence-gathering apparatus, $40 million to prosecute the rioters already arrested, and a whopping $250 million to revamp the Capitol grounds, and potentially install retractable security fencing to replace the steel boundary in place around the Capitol since January.
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Republican opposition centered around the bill’s cost, but also around its potential to permanently militarize the Capitol. Allocating $200 million for a quick reaction force “rais[es] serious concerns about the role of our military on American soil,” Rep. Kelly Granger (R-Texas) said during a debate on the bill.
While the bill squeaked through the House, it faces an even more uncertain fate in the Senate, where the Democrats hold a single-vote majority, and will need to win over 10 Republicans to ensure its passage.
“I think we are pushing the pause button here,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said on Tuesday, suggesting that no money be spent until Congressional hearings into the riot are concluded, and a potential 9/11-style commission probes the incident in depth.
A bill that would establish such a commission passed the House on Wednesday, with Democrats voting unanimously in favor and 35 Republicans lending them their support. But as with Thursday’s spending bill, the Senate may yet shut down the commission bill, especially if Republican Senators have an eye on future endorsements from Trump. Speaking on the Senate floor on Wednesday, McConnell said that he would oppose the bill, a statement that all-but guarantees the Democrats will fail to win over the 10 Republicans necessary to pass it.
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