Dec 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Congress votes to let Capitol Police chief request National Guard help

The U.S. Capitol photographed on Dec. 14.

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Congress passed legislation Tuesday that will allow the Capitol Police chief to "unilaterally" request assistance from the D.C. National Guard or federal law enforcement agencies in emergencies.

Why it matters: Lawmakers have previously said the lack of authority to directly request assistance delayed the National Guard's response to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and left Capitol Police officers stranded and outnumbered during most of the attack.

The big picture: A Senate report released in June found that "opaque processes and a lack of emergency authority" delayed requests for National Guard assistance during the attack and recommended a measure that would give the Capitol Police chief more authority over assistance requests.

  • Currently, the Capitol Police Board must approve assistance requests, though members of the board on Jan. 6 "did not appear to be fully familiar with the statutory and regulatory requirements" for making the request, according to the report.

What they're saying: "January 6th showed us that every minute counts during an emergency," Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who introduced the legislation with Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), said in a statement after it passed the Senate.

  • “Our report found that Capitol Police officers and their law enforcement partners were left alone to defend the Capitol and our democracy itself from violent insurrectionists, while the Chief of the Capitol Police was delayed in obtaining approval to request help from the National Guard," she added.
  • “I have long been concerned that the structure of the Capitol Police Board creates unnecessary delays when swift, decisive action is needed. This bipartisan bill addresses a major security challenge that was evident on January 6th, and is part of our ongoing effort to strengthen Capitol security moving forward," Blunt said in a statement.

What's next: The bill now heads to President Biden, who is expected to sign it into law.

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