House Republicans to offer new National Guard supplemental bill

Measure would would pay back the nearly half-billion dollars it cost to help defend the Capitol on Jan. 6

Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., prepares for a House Budget Committee hearing on Feb. 12, 2020.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., prepares for a House Budget Committee hearing on Feb. 12, 2020. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted July 16, 2021 at 10:43am

Two senior House Republican appropriators plan to file legislation Friday that would pay back the National Guard the nearly half-billion dollars it cost to help defend the Capitol earlier this year, a senior aide said.

The bill’s authors are Steve Womack of Arkansas, who is a retired National Guard colonel, and Ken Calvert of California — both top members of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Their measure would simply appropriate $521 million to the Guard, the staffer said.

Funding legislation to compensate the Guard has stalled amid partisan disputes over how to package the funds. But come August, Guard leaders have said, units will start to run out of funds and will have to make cuts to training, maintenance and more.

“It is unconscionable that their accounts would be hit in such a way that these cuts would have to take place,” Womack said July 13 during the Appropriations Committee’s markup of its draft fiscal 2022 Pentagon spending measure. “This is a bill that Congress needs to foot and foot now.”

Calvert, addressing the committee, concurred.

“We shouldn’t punish them,” Calvert said of the Guard. “They did their job. We should pay them.”

Bids galore

The House passed in May a $1.9 billion supplemental spending measure that includes money for the Capitol Police, $521 million for the Guard, plus $200 million to create a “quick reaction force” for Capitol protection under the command of the D.C. National Guard.

Republicans opposed that bill for sundry reasons. Some thought the funding should have come only after a restructuring of the Capitol Police board and other changes were finalized.

Meanwhile, the Senate has taken a different approach — two actually.

Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., the Senate Appropriations chairman, has offered a $3.7 billion measure that would include funding for a number of goals beyond Capitol security and the National Guard, including paying certain federal COVID-related expenses and covering costs to relocate Afghan refugees who helped America’s war effort.

By comparison, Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the committee’s top Republican, has offered a $633 million bill that is focused on Capitol security and the Guard.

Moving

Womack said none of the Democratic proposals stand a chance of becoming law. By the same token, it is not yet clear if a straightforward bill of the sort he and Calvert are proposing can be cleared either.

Womack offered an amendment at the Appropriations Committee’s Defense bill markup that would have paved the way for reimbursing the Guard the $521 million. But he said then that the $705.9 billion Pentagon bill would almost certainly not be enacted in time to make a difference for the Guard’s August and September crunch, so he withdrew the amendment.

Betty McCollum, the Minnesota Democrat who chairs the Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, said at the markup that she is hopeful negotiations between the parties in Congress can produce appropriations soon for the Guard.

“I’m glad to see the Senate’s at least moving,” McCollum said, and she promised to “work night and day to get the Guard paid on time.”