The Senate’s “vote-a-rama” on the American Rescue Act, the Democrat-proposed COVID relief package, is underway as lawmakers debate the contents of the bill. Democrats hope to pass the legislation that comes with a $1.9 trillion price tag funded by taxpayers, while the Capitol remains closed off to the public.
Wyoming Freshman Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) offered an amendment to the bill that would “Free the Capitol.” The provision would mandate that the Capitol fencing be removed, and ensure that no additional federal dollars are used to construct such barriers around the Capitol.
“No Federal funds may be used on or after the date of enactment of this Act by the United States Capitol Police for the construction or maintenance of a fence or similar barrier surrounding the Capitol,” Lummis’ amendment reads. “REMOVAL OF EXISTING FENCING.—Any fence or similar barrier surrounding the Capitol on the date of enactment of this Act shall be removed not later than 7 days after the date of enactment of this Act.”
Some Democratic lawmakers publicly oppose the barriers currently present at the Capitol and have called for their removal, while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that “a balance between access and security” must be achieved. House Republicans also encouraged Speaker Pelosi to call for the removal of the "excessive" barriers, pointing out that taxpayers are funding the $500 million expense to keep members of the National Guard at the Capitol. Ultimately, the future of the barriers currently protecting the Capitol is up to the Capitol Police Board, which has jurisdiction over the fencing.