House Democrats adopt amendment giving DC mayor authority over city’s national guard

Associated Press/Manuel Balce Ceneta

The House adopted an amendment to the annual defense spending bill on Wednesday that would give the mayor of Washington, D.C. authority over the capital city’s national guard.

The measure — sponsored by Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Anthony Brown (D-Md.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who represents the District of Columbia — was approved in a mainly party-line vote of 218-209 to be added to the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Democratic Rep. Jared Golden (Maine) voted with Republicans in opposing the measure, while GOP Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.) supported the amendment. Two Republicans and one Democrat did not vote.

The House is expected to pass the full NDAA this week. The lower chamber will then go into conference in the Senate, where the amendment could be taken out.

The measure calls for giving the D.C. mayor, currently Muriel Bowser, command over the D.C. National Guard. While governors are in charge of the national guards in their respective states, the president currently oversees the force in Washington, D.C.

Conversations about who has authority over the D.C. National Guard moved into the spotlight after the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.

Maj. Gen. William Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, testified in March 2021 that former President Trump’s Defense Department took roughly three hours to authorize the force to send personnel to the Capitol during the riot.

At the Jan. 6 select committee’s first public hearing last month, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the vice chair of the panel, said Trump “gave no order to deploy the National Guard that day,” explaining that former Vice President Pence urged the National Guard to go to the Capitol.

During debate on the House floor Wednesday, Norton referenced the Capitol riot as reason why the amendment is needed.

“During Jan. 6, the Trump administration delayed deploying the D.C. National Guard to the Capitol for several hours, likely costing lives and prolonging the attack,” she said.

She also said the D.C. mayor is best equipped to make decisions for the nation’s capital, noting that the president would still have the ability to federalize and deploy the force if needed.

“National guards are generally deployed for natural disasters and civil disturbances. The D.C. mayor, who knows D.C. better than any federal official, should be able to deploy the D.C. national guard to protect D.C. residents,” she said.

Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) said giving the D.C. mayor authority over the city’s National Guard instead of the president is “completely unacceptable,” noting that the mayor of D.C. is not a governor.

“I can’t believe this even has to be said, but the D.C. mayor is not the governor of a state. And the District of Columbia, which houses our federal government, is not and should never become a state,” he said during debate on the House floor.

The House in April 2021 passed a bill to make Washington, D.C. a state, marking the second time the chamber approved such a measure in two years, though it has little chance of passing in an evenly divided Senate.

The House-approved version of last year’s NDAA also gave the D.C. mayor authority over the National Guard, but the provision was not included in the final version of the bill, according to Norton’s office.

Tags Anthony Brown Carolyn Maloney Eleanor Holmes Norton Fred Upton Jared Golden Liz Cheney Trump William Walker
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