Capitol Hill security officials will be able to more quickly request emergency aid from National Guard troops under a measure finalized by Congress on Tuesday evening.
The move comes nearly a year after the assault on the Capitol building by protestors intent on disrupting the certification of the 2020 presidential election.
As crowds overwhelmed the undermanned Capitol Hill police force, reinforcements from the District of Columbia National Guard were slowed in their response because of rules regarding formal requests for help.
The new legislation will allow the leaders from the U.S. Capitol Police to request help from the District of Columbia Guard without prior approval of the Capitol Police Board.
“[The Jan. 6 attack] showed us that every minute counts during an emergency,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee. “This legislation will help ensure the Capitol Police chief has the authority needed to call for reinforcements at the Capitol swiftly during emergencies.”
The new legislation comes amid confusion over the response and role of the National Guard during the protests, spurred on by President Donald Trump.
According to documents released by a special House investigative committee earlier this week, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows sent an email saying the National Guard would be available on the day of the protests to “protect pro-Trump people.”
Guard members took several hours to respond to reports of rioters shattering doors and windows in the Capitol in an attempt to reach lawmakers. Military and political leaders have sparred for months over the cause of those delays, caused in part by overly bureaucratic rules regarding requests for help.
Lawmakers have also discussed the possibility of establishing a National Guard quick reaction force to respond to future Capitol complex emergencies, but so far that proposal has not received enough backing to become a reality.
Roughly 26,000 National Guard troops were mobilized to provide security after the Jan. 6 attacks and around the Jan. 20 inauguration of President Joe Biden.
Biden is expected to sign the new legislation into law in coming days.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.
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