The U.S. House of Representatives has approved an amendment to a major defense bill that would give D.C.’s mayor the power to deploy the National Guard during an emergency.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser did not have that authority on Jan. 6, 2021, when rioters overpowered U.S. Capitol Police in an effort to disrupt lawmakers’ certification of the 2020 presidential election.
“During January 6th, the Trump administration delayed deploying the D.C. National Guard for several hours, likely costing lives and prolonging the attack,” said D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a sponsor of the amendment.
Co-sponsors of the measure include Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md., and the chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY.
The amendment was approved by the House on Wednesday night on a largely party line vote, 218-209. It was included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Republicans argued against the amendment, saying it would unnecessarily blur the lines of authority involving the president of the U.S.
Currently, only the president has the authority to deploy the D.C. National Guard.
“It would create a series of dilemmas in the event that the D.C. mayor and the president disagreed on the (deployment) of the guard,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis. “It would only delay response time and create new areas of friction that we don’t need.”
But during the floor debate, Norton said her amendment would simply give the mayor of the District the same authority the state governors currently have to deploy the National Guard.
“This is no different from the division of authority today between a governor and the president, in the event of a large-scale attack on a federal facility,” she said.
The House is expected to pass the NDAA this week.
The legislation would then go to conference with the Senate, where Norton’s amendment could still be taken out.
Some Republicans oppose the amendment on the grounds that D.C. is not a state.
The House last year passed legislation that would make D.C. the 51st state. But given GOP opposition to that bill, it currently has no chance to pass in the Senate.