The House on Tuesday evening unanimously passed legislation that would authorize U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) in Washington, D.C., to request assistance from the National Guard without prior approval in emergency situations.
The Capitol Police Emergency Assistance Act, which was approved by the Senate on Monday, was introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), chairwoman and ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, and seeks to grant the Capitol police chief more autonomy in an emergency.
The legislation now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
The Senate Rules and Administration said in a press release that the legislation reflects a recommendation made by the Senate Rules and Administration and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees after the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol building.
The breach took place during a joint session of Congress when lawmakers met to certify electoral votes submitted by states. The Capitol grounds and building were breached by protestors and some rioters, some of whom wanted to voice their stance against then-Vice President Mike Pence’s refusal to intervene in the certification process. Thousands of peaceful protesters remained outside.
Protesters have said they believe widespread fraud occurred in the election and did not like how officials in some states dramatically altered voting rules amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Former USCP chief Yogananda Pittman told the House Appropriations Committee during a hearing on Jan. 27 that 1,200 USCP officers were overwhelmed by the crowd that gathered at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6.
“January 6th showed us that every minute counts during an emergency. 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,” Klobuchar said in a press release.
Blunt said in a statement that the bipartisan probe into the “response failures” on Jan. 6 “clearly demonstrated the need for the Chief of the U.S. Capitol Police to have more unilateral flexibility to quickly request assistance in an emergency.”
“I have long been concerned that the structure of the Capitol Police Board creates unnecessary delays when swift, decisive action is needed,” he added. “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.”
The Department of Defense (DOD) inspector general (IG) on Nov. 16 said Pentagon officials didn’t delay in responding to the multiple requests for assistance they received before and during the Jan. 6 Capitol breach.
The report follows a bitter debate since Jan. 6 about who was responsible for the breach by hundreds of protestors, dozens of whom were arrested and remain in custody in a D.C. jail.
Democrats and Republicans have gone back and forth about who was ultimately responsible for the failure to secure the Capitol against what was expected to be thousands of protestors.
Democrats have claimed then-President Donald Trump delayed the DOD response, while Republicans have pointed at Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for failing to act quickly.
Pelosi in April suggested there were delays by then-Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller in responding to the Capitol Police’s request for help. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley strongly denied Pelosi’s claim.
The Epoch Times has contacted representatives for the White House for comment.
Mark Tapscott contributed to this report.