‘This is WRONG’: Bipartisan backlash rages against treatment of Natl Guard troops sent to Capitol

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. expressed their outrage and offered their offices to members of the National Guard after images surfaced of them sleeping in a parking garage.

Soon after President Joe Biden’s inauguration and as Democrats took over Congress, National Guard troops were reportedly ordered to vacate the Capitol for their breaks. Troops that had been on hand to protect the federal building and its members reportedly felt “betrayed” and the news stunned lawmakers.

Late Thursday night, after significant backlash and calls by members of Congress, the order was reversed and the citizen members of the National Guard were allowed back to the Capitol building. But the initial images of troops, who had spent days in the cold securing the Capitol, sleeping on garage floors, and resting against cement pillars, drew emotional condemnation.

“Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands, and thanking us for our service. Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage. We feel incredibly betrayed,” one Guardsman told Politico.

Photos of the troops and reports of the disrespectful treatment were shared on social media, sparking an outcry and demand for the order, which reportedly came from Capitol Police, to be reversed.

The removal of the troops from the buildings on Thursday was met with bipartisan backlash.

“If this is true, it’s outrageous. I will get to the bottom of this,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York tweeted in reaction to the Politico story.

“We’ll get to the bottom of this and get it fixed. Congress is in session, but buildings are still closed to the public, so there’s plenty of room for troops to take a break in them,” GOP Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas tweeted.

“This is absolutely unacceptable and despicable treatment of our brave and dedicated National Guard who answered the call to serve. We need to demand answers now and this needs to be fixed immediately,” U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., tweeted.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., slammed the treatment of Guard members as “outrageous, shameful, and incredibly disrespectful.”

South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott called out the move as “unconscionable & unsafe.”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who lost both of her legs in combat, offered the use of her office and later updated to say she had made some calls, and that “Capitol Police have apologized” and were allowing the Guardsmen back.

“Unreal. I can’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,” she tweeted.

 

Duckworth was among many who offered their services and their office space for the troops to use.

“No soldier will ever, ever sleep on a garage floor in the US Capitol while I work in Congress,” GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn tweeted, along with a video of him delivering pizza.

“My office is free this week to any service members who’d like to use it for a break or take nap on the couch. We’ll stock up on snacks for you all too,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter.

Even CNN’s Jake Tapper called out the “mess” and reached out to offer help.

“Simply unacceptable. You’re always welcome in my office,” Iowa GOP Sen. Joni Ernst tweeted. “As a former Iowa National Guard member, I know how hard it is to wear those boots. Thank you for your service every day.

State governors, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, began to call their National Guard members home.

“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,” the Guard said in a statement later.

Many expressions of relief and gratitude were shared after reports that the Guardsmen were being allowed to go back to the federal building.

“Just heard that our troops will be moved back inside tonight. We owe our National Guard and law enforcement officials a debt of gratitude that we can never truly repay. They’ve put everything on the line to protect us. I’m glad to hear they’ll be back indoors tonight,” Sen. Scott tweeted.

“This should NEVER have been an issue, but glad to hear they have been welcomed back inside the Capitol,” Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted.

“Update: looks like they’re letting them back into the Capitol,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “The offer on snacks, etc still stands!”

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Frieda Powers

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