In the District, which is not a state, the president is considered the commander in chief of the National Guard, and the authority is typically delegated to the secretary of the Army. Norton has lobbied for years alongside D.C. mayors to win local control of the Guard. The breach of the Capitol, they say, makes the need for the legislation all the more apparent.
The commander of the D.C. National Guard, Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, told The Washington Post on Tuesday that the Pentagon restricted his authority ahead of the mob invasion. That restriction hindered the Guard’s response to the violence, he said, since he was not able to mobilize the troops himself.
Van Hollen said D.C. officials were “left hamstrung and unable to act” because of the federal government’s interference. Carper noted that Trump deployed the National Guard against peaceful demonstrators during racial justice protests last summer.
“From Trump’s abuses of power this summer, to the insurrection on January 6th, it’s clear that the District must have complete authority over its National Guard and police forces to protect its own safety and security and that of our nation’s capital,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “While the governors of all fifty states and three U.S. territories control their own National Guard forces, D.C. is denied that basic right. As we fight for D.C. Statehood, we must also ensure the District is granted this important instrument of self-governance.”
Bowser raised the issue in the immediate aftermath of the Capitol attack, though she acknowledged that even if she were able to deploy the Guard, she would not have been able to send them to the Capitol, which is federal property. But she would no longer have to clear requests for National Guard support on city streets with the secretary of the Army.
The D.C. National Guard Home Rule Act would also repeal a federal provision allowing the president to federalize the D.C. police during emergencies.
Passage of the bill would be a steppingstone to D.C. statehood, which advocates say has its best chance in years, given that Democrats narrowly control both chambers of Congress and have the White House.
Carper and Van Hollen introduced a bill in the Senate on Wednesday to make D.C. a state. It is a companion to Norton’s House bill, which passed for the first time last summer. But Republican support for D.C. statehood remains scant to nonexistent, and because of the Senate filibuster, the bill would need 60 votes to pass, rather than 51.