National Review

Lawmakers Send Letter to Pelosi Calling for End to Capitol Hill Fencing, National Guard Deployment

A group of 42 lawmakers on Friday sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposing permanent military-style fencing around the U.S. Capitol and asking that National Guard members who were deployed to Washington D.C., last month be sent home. “We write with concerns about the security measures and enhanced fencing around the U.S. Capitol even though high profile events like the inauguration are over,” the group, led by Representative Ted Budd (R., N.C.) wrote. “In particular, we are concerned with recent reports that the fencing surrounding the Capitol may become permanent.” The lawmakers write that they are “willing to have an honest debate about providing Capitol Hill Police with the resources they need to be better prepared without turning the Capitol into a permanent fortress.” “To that end, we urge you to remove the barbed wire fencing surrounding the Capitol and send the National Guard troops home to their families,” the letter adds. “It’s time. It’s time for healing and it’s time for the removal of the fencing so the nation may move forward.” Last month 26,000 National Guard members were deployed to help secure the inauguration in the aftermath of the January 6 rioting at the U.S. Capitol, in which a pro-Trump mob stormed the building while lawmakers met to certify President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. Keeping National Guard members stationed in Washington, D.C. since then has cost an estimated $480 million, with as many as 5,000 to 7,000 troops set to stay in the district until mid-March. “The Capitol is a symbol of freedom and our representative government,” Budd said in a statement to National Review. “For it to be turned into a militarized zone on a permanent basis undermines our moral authority around the world.” He adds that a growing number of bipartisan lawmakers “believe that it’s time to remove the barbed wire fencing and send our National Guard troops home to their families, instead of disrespectfully relegating them to parking garages.” A number of National Guard units have had their deployments extended involuntarily, though most of the troops will stay in Washington voluntarily. Two officials familiar with the plan told Bloomberg that the deployment would cost nearly half-a-billion dollars and said the Army could announce the figure as soon as Friday. The troops will remain in the district to protect the Capitol from what was described as “impeachment security concerns,” including the potential for demonstrations during the Senate trial which is set to begin next week, according to Politico. Guard members told the outlet they had not been informed of any specific threat, though federal authorities are concerned about the potential for continued unrest, particularly sparked by far-right militia groups. There is also concern that unrest could occur on March 4, the date some QAnon conspiracy theorists believe Trump will be inaugurated a second time. Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman last week proposed installing permanent fencing around the Capitol building: “In light of recent events, I can unequivocally say that vast improvements to the physical security infrastructure must be made to include permanent fencing, and the availability of ready, back-up forces in close proximity to the Capitol.” The group of lawmakers argue that while “some increase in security was necessary” after last month’s unrest, that there is “no valid reason to continue the same level of security measures.” “It is appalling that Communist China allows their citizens more freedom to visit historical sites like Tiananmen Square than currently exists for Americans who want to visit the Capitol in Washington, D.C.,” the letter says. Representative Jody Hice (R., Ga.) echoed this sentiment, saying security around the Capitol “must be balanced with and respectful of the fact that this is still — and always will be — the People’s House.” “We simply cannot allow the Capitol Complex to permanently become a fortress so restrictive and unwelcoming to the American public that only Members of Congress and staff are permitted on the premises,” he said in a statement to National Review. He also criticized Democrats as being “outrageously hypocritical” in being comfortable with permanent fencing and walls to protect themselves though they “strenuously object to the same sort of barriers along our southern border to protect the entire country.” “Unless there is a direct and immediate threat to the Capitol, the militarized security needs to be deescalated as quickly as possible to allow a return to normalcy,” he said.



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