Van Hollen, Carper, Norton Reintroduce Bills to Grant D.C. Full Control Over Its National Guard, Police

Government and Politics

February 2, 2023

Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) reintroduced their legislation to grant the District of Columbia full control over the D.C. National Guard and the Metropolitan Police Department. These measures have proven all the more necessary after the attack on the Capitol on January 6th, when Mayor Bowser’s request for additional support from the D.C. National Guard took nearly three hours to be fully approved by the Trump Administration. The legislation follows the recent Senate introduction of the Washington, D.C. Admission Act legislation to grant the District of Columbia statehood, led by Senator Carper and Congresswoman Norton and cosponsored by Senator Van Hollen.

“On January 6th, as a violent mob attacked the Capitol, District of Columbia officials were unable to deploy the D.C. National Guard without authorization from President Trump. That dangerous episode revealed the urgency of giving the Mayor of the District of Columbia the same powers to deploy the D.C. National Guard to protect people in Washington D.C. as the leaders of states and territories have to protect their residents,” said Senator Van Hollen. “Moreover, the Mayor of D.C. should have complete control over the deployment of the Metropolitan Police. The president cannot commandeer the police forces of other jurisdictions and should not have that power over the Metropolitan Police. As we fight for D.C. Statehood, we must also ensure the District is granted these important instruments of self-governance.”

“The bills that Senator Van Hollen and I are introducing would ensure that Washington, D.C. officials have full authority to maintain the safety of their residents,” said Senator Carper. “As a former Governor of Delaware, I called on our National Guard to respond to numerous emergencies such as floods, storms, and other extreme weather events. The District of Columbia should be afforded that same right to protect its own citizens during times of crisis—a right granted to all fifty states and three U.S. territories.”

"D.C. should — and will — be a state," Norton said. "However, until our D.C. statehood bill becomes law, there is no constitutional or policy reason Congress should not expand D.C.'s authority to govern its local affairs. Today's introduction of our bills repealing the president's authority to federalize the local D.C. police department and to give D.C.'s mayor control over the D.C. National Guard, like governors of states have over their National Guards, places D.C. closer to having control over some of its most vital affairs. Thank you to Senators Van Hollen and Carper for being our longstanding and determined partners on these bills in the Senate.”

The District of Columbia National Guard Home Rule Act would name the Mayor of Washington, D.C. as Commander-in-Chief of the D.C. National Guard, giving the Mayor the same control over the D.C. National Guard that the governors of the states and the three territories with National Guards have over their respective National Guards. Under current law, the President is Commander-in-Chief of the D.C. National Guard. A coalition of over 100 groups, including leading civil rights, labor, democracy and environmental groups, have supported the lawmakers' legislation to give D.C. control over the D.C. National Guard.

The District of Columbia Police Home Rule Act would repeal the provision in the Home Rule Act that gives the President the authority to federalize the Metropolitan Police Department. The Home Rule Act provides that, “whenever the President of the United States determines that special conditions of an emergency nature exist which require the use of the Metropolitan Police force for Federal purposes, he may direct the mayor to provide him, and the mayor shall provide, such services of the Metropolitan Police force as the President may deem necessary and appropriate.”

Senators Van Hollen and Carper first introduced this legislation in June 2020, following President Trump’s unconstitutional use of force against peaceful protestors in D.C. During that period of protests, Mayor Bowser confirmed that the White House had inquired about federalizing the Metropolitan Police Department. Following the events of January 6th, the lawmakers re-upped their call for action on this legislation.