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Top Republican: 'Outrageous' to extend National Guard deployment at Capitol

The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee said Thursday it would be “outrageous” to keep the National Guard at the Capitol for potentially two more months.

“It’s outrageous because that’s not their function. It’s not their mission,” Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense: Biden participates in NATO summit | White House backs 2002 AUMF repeal | Top general says no plans for airstrikes to help Afghan forces after withdrawal Top Republican proposes leaving 1,000 US troops in Afghanistan into next year The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Citizens' Climate Lobby - Biden floats infrastructure, tax concessions to GOP MORE (R-Okla.) told reporters.

Citing the fact that National Guardsmen have civilian jobs waiting for them, Inhofe said the deployment is “destroying careers of people.”

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“We have the Capitol Police. That is their mission,” he said.

The Pentagon is reviewing a draft request from the Capitol Police to extend the deployment, but “the details of the request are still being worked out,” a Defense official said.

Rep. Elissa SlotkinElissa SlotkinDemocrats seize on GOP opposition to Jan. 6 commission Hillicon Valley: Democrats urge Facebook to abandon 'Instagram for kids' plan | 'Homework gap' likely to persist after pandemic Legislation to secure critical systems against cyberattacks moves forward in the House MORE (D-Mich.), who previously worked at the Defense Department, said Thursday she has heard from contacts at the National Guard that Capitol Police asked them to extend their mission for 60 days.

The 5,200 guardsmen at the Capitol, who were drawn from several states, are currently scheduled to leave March 12.

But concerns about the security of lawmakers and the building persist, including a heightened alert on Thursday because of a QAnon conspiracy theory that former President TrumpDonald TrumpHead of firms that pushed 'Italygate' theory falsely claimed VA mansion was her home: report Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting VA moving to cover gender affirmation surgery through department health care MORE would be inaugurated on March 4, the traditional date for presidential inaugurations until 1933.

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The National Guard was deployed to reinforce security after the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, with the deployment reaching a height of about 26,000 troops from across the country.

Republicans have been increasingly skeptical of the continued deployment of guardsmen at the Capitol, questioning what intelligence exists to justify keeping them there beyond general threats on social media.

“Before any extension for National Guard presence is finalized, lawmakers should be briefed on the latest intelligence threat assessments to determine the necessity of keeping our service members away from their families and fulltime jobs,” Rep. Michael WaltzMichael WaltzBiden struggles to detail post-withdrawal Afghanistan plans Overnight Defense: Biden, Putin agree to launch arms control talks at summit | 2002 war authorization repeal will get Senate vote | GOP rep warns Biden 'blood with be on his hands' without Afghan interpreter evacuation GOP rep: If Biden doesn't evacuate Afghan interpreters, 'blood will be on his hands' MORE (R-Fla.), who was previously critical of the continued deployment, said in a statement Thursday. “If more security is needed, it should [be] our Capitol Police with better planning and intelligence, not drawing from National Guardsmen and women that are needed for other missions such as vaccine distribution, natural disaster and overseas deployments.”

Waltz placed blame on Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGOP increasingly balks at calling Jan. 6 an insurrection Overnight Energy: Lake Mead's decline points to scary water future in West | White House leads opposition to raising gas tax | Biden taps ex-New Mexico lawmaker for USDA post Trump against boycotting Beijing Olympics in 2022 MORE (D-Calif.) for keeping lawmakers “in the dark,” though Pelosi said earlier Thursday the decision on whether to extend the guard is up to Capitol security officials.

News the National Guard could be at the Capitol potentially until May is stoking scrutiny among Democrats and local D.C. officials, too.

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Slotkin tweeted Thursday that regardless of whether the mission is extended or ends March 12, “It’s critical that members of Congress get a briefing on what’s behind these decisions.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel BowserMuriel BowserDC to offer gift cards to those getting first COVID-19 shot White House to host large outdoor gathering for July 4 DC board votes to lift last COVID-19 restrictions on bars, restaurants MORE (D) appeared caught off guard by the request at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

“It was our expectation that the additional forces would be leaving, like, now,” Bowser said, adding Capitol Police has had “very little” communication with the city. “We don’t know why additional forces have been requested until May.”

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntExcellence Act will expand mental health and substance use treatment access to millions Overnight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19 Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision MORE (Mo.), the top Republican on the Senate Rules Committee, also told reporters he was not briefed on Capitol Police’s request.

“My working view has been that the guard would be largely gone by the end of March,” Blunt said. “I do think that some active military police guard in a more permanent basis near the Capitol could be a good idea for the foreseeable future, principally because they would actually be able to relieve the Capitol Police.”

He also said he has spoken with retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who was tapped by Pelosi to lead a review of Capitol security and recommend reforms. Honoré has provided congressional leaders with an early draft of his report.

“His view would be that we’d have National Guard here for quite a while longer than” May, Blunt said of Honoré, comparing the situation to a couple hundred military police that stayed at the Capitol for two years after the 9/11 attacks.