DC Mayor

Legislation Would Give Mayor Direct Control of DC National Guard

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Congress will consider whether to give D.C.’s mayor more control of the D.C. National Guard.

New legislation in the works could be formally debated as early this month.

Nationwide, governors have the power to call up their state’s National Guard, but in the District, the president and the secretaries of the Army and Air Force do so.

Before the D.C. National Guard was called on to respond to racial justice protests in the city this week, the guard mobilized because of the coronavirus pandemic.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said there was a difference between those two responses.

“We called up the guard, as you know, a s part of our COVID response,” she said. “I would say that response took longer than this response, calling them up for this public safety emergency.”

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton asked the House Armed Services Committee to pass legislation giving the power to deploy the guard to the mayor without White House approval.

“We’re talking we’d only need the National Guard in the event of an emergency,” she said. “You need to be able to act instantly.”

The congresswoman said the president would still have power to federalize the guard, as he does in all other states, but said giving the mayor direct control of the guard is part of ensuring D.C. home rule.

“We pay for our National Guard; we recruit our National Guard,” she said. “They’re our National Guard.”

Congressional staffers said the bill would be considered by the House Armed Services Committee and could be part of a sweeping annual authorization hearing to approve the Pentagon and National Guards nationwide. That is expected to happen early this summer.

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