National Guard members allowed back into Capitol after outrage over request to rest in parking garage

CBS NEWS

After spending days in the cold securing the United States Capitol following the deadly siege two weeks ago, citizen members of the National Guard were asked to leave the Capitol building and relocate to a nearby parking garage to rest during their shifts. The decision drew swift condemnation from lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who called the move “outrageous.”

Several pressed to have it reversed. 

And it was, late Thursday night.

The Guard issued a statement saying, “Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead, Inauguration Task Force Commander confirms that troops are out of the garage and back into the Capitol building as authorized by the USCP (U.S. Capitol Police) Watch Commander and the troops will take their breaks near Emancipation Hall going forward.”   

One of the lawmakers who’d expressed outrage, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D – Illinois), tweeted, “Update: Troops are now all out of the garage. Now I can go to bed.”

At around 3 p.m. Thursday, Capitol Police asked the National Guard to relocate the soldiers who were using Capitol hallways and open space to rest during their shifts, National Guard Bureau spokesman Major Matt Murphy told CBS News. 

“As Congress is in session and increased foot traffic and business is being conducted, Capitol Police asked the troops to move their rest area,” Murphy said. “They were temporarily relocated to the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Center garage with heat and restroom facilities.” 

About 3,500 National Guardsmen were moved out of the Capitol, but not all were in the parking garage at the same time. During their guard duty shifts, members are cycled into the garage to warm up and take a break, and the guardsmen return to a hotel when their shifts are over. 

Some guardsmen have expressed displeasure at being moved to a parking garage. While the garage has heat and lights, there are limited restrooms, cell phone and internet service and power outlets. 

Politico first reported the move, and lawmakers lashed out.

“This is outrageous, shameful, and incredibly disrespectful to the men and women keeping the U.S. Capitol safe and secure,” said Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D – Arizona). “We need it fixed and we need answers on how it happened.” 

South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott also took to Twitter:

Duckworth called it “unreal,” adding she couldn’t “believe that the same brave service members we’ve been asking to protect our Capitol and our Constitution these last two weeks would be unceremoniously ordered to vacate the building. I am demanding answers ASAP. They can use my office.” 

Murphy told CBS News, “They had to go somewhere, is my understanding.  There are always going to be some ruffled feathers, some people are not going to like. The troops press on. They still perform their mission duties and that’s what they are doing.”

Capitol Police said in a statement earlier Thursday night that the department “immensely appreciates the integral support of the U.S. National Guard in helping to secure the Capitol Complex leading up to, and including the Inaugural ceremony.” 

The department said it has recently requested that guard members’ shifts be shortened to allow for more off-campus rest time. 

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