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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 Inhofe (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."
"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 Slotkin (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 Trump would be inaugurated on March 4, the traditional date for presidential inaugurations until 1933.
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 Waltz (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 Pelosi (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.
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 Bowser (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 Blunt (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.