GOP Lawmakers Introduce Narrow Bill to Fund the National Guard as It Nears Total Shutdown

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National Guard patrols near U.S. Capitol.
Members of the national guard patrol the area outside of the U.S. Capitol during the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump at Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. (Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo)

Two Republicans on Friday introduced a bill that would reimburse the National Guard the $521 million in costs it accrued while defending lawmakers after the pro-Trump Capitol assault in January, but does not include funding for other security measures that have appeared in previous legislation sponsored by Democrats. 

The National Guard is less than two weeks from a virtual shutdown. If the force isn't reimbursed by Aug. 1, training events, schools and drills will be canceled until Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year.  

National Guard chief Gen. Daniel Hokanson on Thursday penned a memo obtained by Military.com to the directors of the Army and Air National Guard ordering them to pull back all unspent funds from all states, territories and the District of Columbia in an effort to keep the most critical parts of the force running. 

"We must take prudent actions," Hokanson wrote. "We must also prioritize essential missions such as medical services, resiliency efforts, victim support, investigation of sexual assault, and active litigation."

The bill introduced by Defense Appropriations Subcommittee members Reps. Steve Womack, R-Ark., and Ken Calvert, R-Calif., would simply reimburse the Guard. 

Read Next: National Guard Two Weeks from Collapse -- Stalling Promotions, Gutting Training, Canceling Drills, Leaders Warn

"This bill is a simple solution to a problem that shouldn't exist," Womack said in a statement. "Instead of partisan bickering and bloated spending packages that do not meet the definition of 'emergency,' it's time for Congress to do its most basic duty and provide our men and women in uniform with the funding they are owed."

Womack and Calvert's bill would face an uphill battle in the Democratically controlled House, especially given that in May, the House passed a $1.9 billion blueprint without a single Republican vote to reimburse the Guard. 

That measure also included money for a controversial National Guard quick reaction force to be on standby in D.C. to respond to emergencies. It also included funding boosts for security measures and federal law enforcement. 

"This emergency supplemental appropriation addresses the direct costs of the insurrection and strengthens Capitol security for the future," Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement in May. 

Meanwhile, a growing chorus of Republicans -- including Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee -- is calling for clean legislation that would exclusively fund the Guard and not come attached with unrelated items.

"We must come together and pass a clean supplemental to ensure the National Guard, which remained unnecessarily at the Capitol with your support, has the funds needed to train for and fulfill their mission," Rogers wrote in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., last week. 

In the Senate, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who chairs the Appropriations Committee, proposed a $3.7 billion plan that, like the House measure, would pay back the Guard, but it also devotes billions of dollars to unrelated efforts such as new resources for combating the pandemic and support for Afghanistan refugees. 

Leahy said Congress needs to act through a single bill.

"We did not budget for an insurrection, and I am glad that my Republican colleagues have joined the negotiating table on this urgent matter, but their proposal falls far short of the needs of the moment," he said in a statement. "A violent insurrection happened. A pandemic happened.  And the President announced the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. These events created urgent needs that must be met now. A piecemeal approach is no way to govern, and I have been here long enough to know that a promise to do it 'later' is no promise at all."

Leahy's Republican counterpart on the committee, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., introduced a much slimmer $632.9 million bill that would fund the National Guard and cover additional costs the Capitol Police accrued related to the mob attack. 

Some 27,000 Guardsmen deployed to the Capitol in January; the mission lasted until late May. Since then, most additional security measures, including a steel razor wire fence surrounding Capitol Hill, have been taken down. 

-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

Related: Cash-Strapped National Guard Warns It Will Be Forced to Cancel Training, Ground Aircraft

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