The Capitol Police Chief is set to gain new authority to call National Guard troops to Capitol Hill under legislation that was passed by the House and Senate this week.
The bipartisan bill, which authorized both houses by voice vote, is now heading to President Joe Biden’s office. This is a response to the January 6 insurgency, when the then Capitol Hill police chief pleaded with security officials and the Pentagon to call on the troops for help. Troops did not arrive at the scene for several hours, during which a violent crowd of supporters of former President Donald Trump brutally beat police and stormed into the building.
The legislation would allow the chief to request troops from the District of Columbia National Guard or federal law enforcement agencies in certain emergency situations without the prior approval of the Capitol Police Board, a secret group of three members. security officials who oversee the law enforcement agency.
âJan. The 6th has shown us that every minute counts in an emergency,â said Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, rules panel chair and lead author of the legislation.
The bill would also require the council, which meets in private, to appear publicly in joint House and Senate hearings. The Capitol Police Council has not met in bicameral hearing since 1945, according to the Senate Rules Committee.
Crowds of Trump supporters quickly and violently swarmed the Capitol Police, which were assisted by the DC Metropolitan Police Department, on January 6 and disrupted President Joe Biden’s certification of victory. Lawmakers ran for their lives as rioters scrambled through broken windows and doors.
A Senate investigation into security breaches, released in June, recounted how the guard was delayed for hours as officials from several agencies took bureaucratic steps to free the troops. It detailed the hours of calls between Capitol Hill and Pentagon officials as Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund pleaded for help. He revealed that the Pentagon was spending hours “planning missions” and seeking out multiple layers of approvals as the Capitol Police were overwhelmed.
The report strongly criticized the board, finding that three of its members on January 6 did not understand their own authority and could not detail the legal requirements for seeking National Guard help.
Two of the three council members, the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms, were expelled within days of the attack. Sund, the Capitol Police chief, resigned under pressure. Current Capitol Hill Police Chief Tom Manger was sworn in in July.
Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, the top Republican on the rules panel, said he has long feared the structure of the police board has created unnecessary delays.
âThis bipartisan bill addresses a major security challenge that was evident on January 6 and is part of our ongoing efforts to strengthen Capitol Hill security going forward,â Blunt said.
Blunt said the Capitol building and staff are safer than they were a year ago. But he added that there was more to do.
âI think because of people’s vision of what’s possible in terms of Capitol Hill security, we’re safer. But I think we’re behind in implementing the things the Capitol Police budget has already allocated money for, as well as solving the big challenge of having just enough officers to do work.
âThis problem is not unique to us. Every police force in America is looking for more officers to join their team, âsaid Blunt of the nearly 200 officers who have left the force since Jan. 6.
Associated Press writer Farnoush Amiri contributed to this report.