Senate Democrats block bills to bolster school safety, mental health resources

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Sen. Chris Murphy called the GOP legislation “theatre”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Connecticut)/Getty Images

Josh Christenson • September 16, 2022 4:00 p.m.

Senate Democrats on Wednesday blocked two bills by Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) that would have used COVID-19 stimulus funds to boost school safety and mental health resources for students.

The Making Our Schools Safer Act, which was co-sponsored by Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), Would double the number of police officers in public, charter and private schools, strengthen physical security measures like alarms and locks, and would put thousands of mental health professionals in public schools. The Protecting Our Children’s Schools Act would fund this effort, appropriating billions of dollars in unspent education-related COVID funds. Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) opposed both in the Senate, killing the bill after Cruz sought unanimous consent.

Murphy called Cruz’s legislative push “theatre”. Cruz replied that he was “really flabbergasted” that Murphy would oppose the bill without debating its merits.

“If another madman attacks a school and there’s no policeman at the front door to arrest him, call him back right away,” Cruz said. “Remember that time when Democrats said, ‘No, we won’t protect our children. “”

The bills are the latest school safety measures Senate Democrats have blocked since the fatal shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, in May. Days after the shooting, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., NY) deleted a bill that would have tasked Homeland Security with collecting school safety data and providing recommendations to forces of the order.

The Cruz bills would have allocated $25 billion to place security guards and mental health officers in schools and tripled FEMA’s school safety grant program. Cruz’s bills would have barred schools that teach critical race theory or advocate for abortion from accessing the funds.

Murphy said he was in legislative talks with a “more serious legislator,” Sen. James Lankford (R., Okla.), about a similar school safety bill. An aide in the Lankford office told the Free Washington Beacon that Murphy got it wrong and that the two senators are collaborating on another education bill. Lankford co-sponsored Cruz’s school safety bill when it was introduced in July.

“Schools should have the ability to access unspent COVID funds to strengthen school safety,” Lankford said in a press release at the time. $135 billion in education-related COVID relief remains.

Cruz told CBS News on Tuesday that he hopes the funds for mental health professionals will find early “warning signs” in troubled teens. “Some of these crimes could be stopped before they happen,” he said.

Murphy joined Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) on another school safety bill in June, which President Joe Biden signed into law the same month. This law increased screening measures for certain gun buyers. The school’s overall funding was a fraction of Bill Cruz, allocating $2 billion to mental health resources and $300 million to school safety.

On Wednesday, Cruz called the law a “big gun control package” that will “do nothing – zero – to stop mass murder.”

“There is no money left to stop these crimes,” Cruz said. said. “The money is used to disarm law-abiding citizens.”

A spokeswoman for Murphy did not respond to a request for comment.

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