Congress passes bill allowing for easier National Guard defense of Capitol after Jan. 6
The House unanimously passed the Capitol Police Emergency Assistance Act to empower the Capitol police chief to request the assistance of the D.C. National Guard without prior approval following the events of Jan. 6.
The bill, which was approved by the Senate a day earlier, seeks to give the Capitol police chief more autonomy in an emergency. It will now head to the White House to be signed into law by President Biden.
During the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, D.C. National Guard personnel didn’t arrive at the Capitol until hours after the initial breach — a fact which has been the subject of much scrutiny in the months since the attack.
The bill was based on recommendations from a Rules and Homeland Security Committee joint report on Jan. 6th security, planning and response failures.
The report found that the Capitol Police Board’s failure to adequately plan for a potential disturbance on Jan. 6 led to delays in the deployment of the National Guard. It said that a request had to be sent to the Defense Department before the National Guard could be deployed to secure the Capitol.
“This bipartisan bill addresses a major security challenge that was evident on January 6th, and is part of our ongoing effort to strengthen Capitol security moving forward,” Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, one of the bill’s two co-authors, said in a statement on Monday.
“Capitol Police officers and their law enforcement partners were left alone to defend the Capitol and our democracy itself from violent insurrectionists, while the Chief of the Capitol Police was delayed in obtaining approval to request help from the National Guard,” the bill’s other co-author, Democratic Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, said Monday in a statement.
Gen. William Walker, commander of the Washington, D.C., National Guard, testified in March that he did not need authorization from Pentagon leaders before deploying troops in response to protests at the Capitol, but that changed in the days leading up to Jan. 6, CNN reported.
He said, per CNN, that a Jan. 5 memo stated that he was required to seek approval from the Secretary of the Army and Defense before authorizing a troop deployment to respond to a civil disturbance.
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