National Guard training and programming cuts scheduled for August may be avoided after Senate appropriators announced a new deal Tuesday to rush more than $500 million in needed funds to the military bureau.
The emergency legislation also includes hundreds of millions in Afghan refugee assistance funds and hundreds of millions more in money Capitol Police say is needed to help secure the congressional complex.
Both the House and Senate will have to pass the new plan by the end of the week to avoid funding disruptions for the Guard expected to start in August. But on Tuesday, Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate were optimistic they will get the work done.
“We have the responsibility to take care of the Capitol Police in the wake of their incredible service on January 6th, and to reimburse our National Guard for costs incurred protecting the Capitol,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in a statement.
“This bipartisan agreement addresses these critical needs, and it addresses them now because they cannot wait.”
Similarly, committee ranking member Richard Shelby, R-Ala., backed the $2.1 trillion plan, saying that the Guard money should be approved “without further delay.”
National Guard officials have said for months that they need about $521 million in reimbursements to offset the unexpected costs of sending more than 20,000 troops to help secure the Capitol complex in the wake of the Jan. 6 attempted insurrection there and the presidential inauguration a few weeks later.
Without the money, the service has planned to slash training scheduled for August and September and cut back on other programming.
Support for reimbursing the Guard has been strong from both Democrats and Republicans, but party leaders have fought in recent weeks over other items in the emergency supplemental, including coronavirus relief and money for other security projects.
In May, House leaders passed a $1.9 billion package including the Guard funds largely along party lines. Lawmakers are expected to take up the new deal later this week, after Senate passage.
In their summary of the new legislation, officials said the Guard money would be used “to prevent cancellation of summer drills for members of the Army National Guard and Air National Guard.”
The inclusion of money for Afghan refugees is also expected to draw more bipartisan support for the package. At least $500 million would be given to the State Department to help evacuate Afghans who have qualified for the Special Immigrant Visa program, and another $100 million for assistance for humanitarian needs in Afghanistan.
U.S. military forces are scheduled to be out of that country by the end of the summer, and officials have been struggling to deal with a backlog of visa applications for individuals who worked closely with American forces and now fear for their safety.
The proposed legislation would also boost the number of Afghan Special Immigrant Visas available to 8,000.
One item not included in the deal is money for a quick reaction force of National Guard troops to assist with Capitol Hill security on a full-time basis. That idea was included in the House measure, but was met with resistance from Senate lawmakers.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.