A Republican congressman is calling for a public hearing to find out why thousands of National Guard troops in Washington, D.C. were abruptly told to leave the U.S. Capitol and take their breaks in a crowded garage during a pandemic.
Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., sent a letter requesting that leaders of the Committee on House Administration hold a hearing on why Guard members were "forced" to take their breaks while on 12-hour guard shifts in a "parking garage without internet reception and having only one bathroom for approximately 5,000 troops," according to a news release Gosar's office put out Saturday.
The Thursday evening decision was quickly reversed after a flood of phone calls from outraged lawmakers. The Guard troops were all moved out of the garage before midnight.
The incident was particularly disturbing to many lawmakers because it happened one day after the force of 25,600 Guard members provided security for President Joe Biden's inauguration. Guard members from every state and territory were rushed into the D.C. to support federal law enforcement after a Jan. 6 political rally escalated into a violent breach of the Capitol that resulted in five deaths.
"The men and women of the U.S. National Guard deserve better," Gosar said in the letter. "This is absolutely despicable and a sad state of affairs when our men and women in uniform have better accommodations overseas than they do on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol."
Biden reached out to Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, in a phone call on Friday morning to thank him for the Guard's efforts during the inauguration and over the past year. Biden also told Hokanson to call him if he needed support in the future.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, also called for answers on Friday.
"This isn't a blame game -- but I want to know what happened so we can make sure it can't happen again," Inhofe said.
Gosar raised also his concern that the cramped garage break area heightened virus transmission risk, noting that at least 100 Guard troops had tested positive for COVID-19 at the time of the letter's writing. As of Monday, more than 200 have tested positive, Hokanson told reporters at the Pentagon.
"The American people demand and indeed deserve answers now," Gosar's letter states. "That is why it is imperative that a formal hearing by your committee be conducted in a timely manner."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.