January 22, 2021

Mississippi senator chairs subcommittee over Capitol police; noncommittal on investigation after protesters overwhelm officers

BY GEOFF PENDER

MISSISSIPPI TODAY

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, chair of a key subcommittee over Capitol Police, was noncommittal Thursday as other lawmakers called for investigations into Wednesday’s riot at the U.S. Capitol and response from police and military.

Hyde-Smith, Mississippi’s junior senator and a Republican, serves as chair of the Legislative Branch Subcommittee of Senate Appropriations, which has budget and spending oversight authority over Capitol Police. The Democratic chair of the same subcommittee in the House on Thursday announced a “review of the law enforcement response to yesterday’s coup attempt.”

Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith serves as chair of the Legislative Branch Subcommittee of Senate Appropriations, which has budget and spending oversight authority over Capitol Police.

In a written statement on Thursday, a Hyde-Smith spokesman said: “Senator Hyde-Smith continues to monitor the situation closely. Committees of jurisdiction, the U.S. Capitol Police and others will examine these events thoroughly in terms of how this tragedy occurred, how to prevent a repeated occurrence, and how to improve the security of the Capitol campus while ensuring orderly and appropriate public access.”

Hyde-Smith’s statement stands in contrast to the public comments of the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Murphy on Wednesday was more vocal in calling for investigation and reform after the takeover of the Capitol.

“I have had two phone calls with the Chief of the Capitol Police and one with the Secretary of the Army in the last 14 hours,” Murphy tweeted on Thursday. “… We need major reform to the way we defend the Capitol and we need to get started now.

“There will be many videos, some will raise concern, some will show heroism,” Murphy said. “We need a full investigation on how the Capitol’s security was breached this quickly. As the ranking member on the committee that funds the Capitol Police, I intend to be at the forefront of that inquiry.”

Murphy also said a key question from Wednesday’s attack is “why it took hours for there to be a response from the U.S. military to an armed invasion of the United States Capitol.”

“Why spend $700B on the military if they can’t defend the Capitol from attack?” Murphy said.

Hyde-Smith’s chairmanship of the subcommittee is likely short-lived, with Democrats soon to take control of the Senate after this week’s elections in Georgia.

On the House side, Legislative Branch Subcommittee Chair Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, in a joint press release with Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut, said, “It is obvious that there was a severe systemic failure in securing the building’s perimeter and the response once the building was breached.”

“To ensure the safety of those who work and visit here, we must get to the bottom of these breakdowns and prevent them from ever happening again. (The subcommittee) is robustly investigating yesterday’s events, including with hearings to directly question key leaders about what went wrong.”

The Capitol Police force, created in 1800 when Congress moved from Philadelphia to Washington, has about 2,000 sworn officers and 350 civilian employees. Its budget this year is about $516 million.

Besides budget and spending oversight by the Legislative Branch committees, the Committee on House Administration and Senate Committee on Rules and Administration have authorization oversight of the agency.

As some lawmakers called for his resignation on Thursday, Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund issued a statement that included:

“The violent attack on the U.S. Capitol was unlike any I have ever experienced in my 30 years in law enforcement here in Washington, D.C. Maintaining public safety in an open environment — specifically for First Amendment activities — has long been a challenge. The USCP had a robust plan established to address anticipated First Amendment activities. But make no mistake – these mass riots were not First Amendment activities; they were criminal riotous behavior. The actions of the USCP officers were heroic given the situation they faced, and I continue to have tremendous respect in the professionalism and dedication of the women and men of the United States Capitol Police.”

This story was published with permission from Mississippi Today. Click here for a link to the original story.