House and Senate Democrats are seeking to give the mayor of the District of Columbia the power to deploy National Guard troops in times of need, citing the January 6 riot at the Capitol as one of the reasons why the change is necessary.
The measure, which is included in the House version of Congress’ massive annual defense policy bill still being debated on the Hill, would grant Mayor Muriel Bowser the same authority as state governors to mobilize the district’s National Guard. .
Lawmakers say they want to ensure the measure passes the final version of the pending National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is considered a law to pass with just weeks to go in the current lame- duck session.
“The D.C. mayor, who knows D.C. better than any federal official and who works closely with federal security officials, should be able to deploy the D.C. National Guard in response to natural disasters and civil disturbances,” said lawmakers, led by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city’s nonvoting Democratic delegate in the House, wrote in a letter Wednesday to the leadership of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee.
“In the event of a large-scale attack on a federal facility like the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, a DC mayor who controlled the DC National Guard would almost certainly immediately deploy the DC National Guard to protect the facility,” the added. legislature. .
Ms. Norton was joined by Democratic Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney of New York and Anthony Brown of Maryland and Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, in signing the letter.
The measure passed the House in a largely partisan vote, 218-209, over the summer, as lawmakers navigated through a sea of amendments to the NDAA, which sets budget targets and includes a host of policy drivers for the Pentagon.
Republicans said the amendment would usurp the president’s authority. The president currently has sole authority to deploy the district’s National Guard.
Ms Norton said during the floor debate on the measure that the current chain of command conflicts with that of other National Guard troops in the United States.
“This is no different from the current division of powers between a governor and the president, in the event of a large-scale attack on a federal facility,” she said.
After weeks of behind-closed-door talks to resolve disagreements between versions of the bill in the House and Senate, negotiators are reportedly nearing a final draft that could pass next week.
Politico reported on Wednesday that negotiators have agreed to include a $45 billion increase in the Pentagon’s budget — well above President Biden’s original budget request, which many lawmakers said failed to keep pace with inflation.
The added funding reflects the Senate Armed Services approved version of the bill. The House approved a $37 billion increase to the Pentagon’s revenue in its version.
If passed, this would be the second year that lawmakers have used the all-encompassing NDAA to increase the Pentagon’s budget beyond Mr Biden’s request.