Sen. Mike Lee (center) is photographed with members of the Utah National Guard during their deployment to Washington, D.C. early in 2021.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of the U.S. Senate voted unanimously Thursday to support National Guard training and readiness.
“When Utah’s sons and daughters reported to Washington, D.C. to protect the Capitol, they did so out of a commitment to duty and patriotism,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) said after the rare non-partisan vote in the Senate. “It is unacceptable that their service would have been punished by being denied the necessary funds to carry out additional missions and training.”
The appropriation measure passed by the Senate authorized $2.1 billion to reimburse the National Guard bureau for costs incurred in supporting security in Washington following the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill.
More than 26,000 members of the National Guard from all 50 states, including Utah, participated in that security mission, which was extended for more than four months for some units. Pentagon officials reported that the cost of that deployment was close to $500 million for housing, transportation, salaries, benefits and other essential expenses.
The use of National Guard troops for enhanced security of the Capitol was necessary because federal law prohibits the use of active duty military personnel for law enforcement purposes in the United States.
Sen. Lee’s staff said that the legislation passed by the Senate is aimed at preventing the cancellation of vital training activities planned by National Guard officials in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Without that reimbursement, they added, numerous training sessions and drill weekends would have been cancelled, resulting in National Guard personnel not receiving pay for those previously scheduled activities.
Approximately 350 members of the Utah National Guard deployed to Washington following the Capitol Hill riot, including Green Berets of the 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne).
“The function of Utah’s National Guard is not only vital to the defense and support of Utah, but also to the entire nation,” Sen. Lee said in praise of their efforts. “Voting to support the National Guard is a vote to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
The Senate spending bill earmarked $521 million to reimburse the National Guard for its security expenses, as well as more than $70 million to support more U.S. Capitol Police officers, including hazard pay, overtime and retention bonuses.
The bill also includes $1.1 billion in relief for Afghans who worked with the U.S. during nearly two decades of war in their country.
The Senate bill passed Thursday is a separate measure from a $1.9 billion security measure passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in May. The House bill does not include any funding to aid Afghans. It does provide $200 million for the establishment of a permanent National Guard “quick reaction force” that would support and augment the Capitol Police.
While the Senate bill has broad bipartisan support, it will have to be taken up by the House and passed before it can be signed into law.