July 01, 2020

Van Hollen, Carper Announce Amendment to Strip the President’s Ability to Control D.C. National Guard in Defense Bill

Amendment to NDAA Gives D.C. Mayor Authority Over D.C. National Guard

Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) are filing an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would strip the President’s authority to control the District of Columbia National Guard and grant the Mayor of Washington, D.C. 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. The amendment follows last week’s House passage of the Washington, D.C. Admissions Act, legislation introduced in the Senate by Senator Carper and cosponsored by Senator Van Hollen. Today, Senators Van Hollen and Carper will also participate in a hearing led by the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Committee on D.C. Statehood.

“While the governors of all fifty states and three U.S. territories control their own National Guard forces, D.C. is denied that basic right. As we saw throughout this month – and as recently as last night – the President Trump has abused his control of the D.C. National Guard, using it as his own personal means of bravado and force and grossly violating Americans’ First Amendment rights in the process. Now more than ever, it’s clear that the President cannot and should not have this authority. As we fight for D.C. Statehood, we must also ensure the District is granted this important instrument of  self-governance,” said Senator Van Hollen. 

“The fact that the President of the United States deployed the National Guard against peaceful protestors in the District of Columbia for a photo-op is abhorrent to me – not just as someone who has served in the military, but just as a human being. And the only reason the President was able to carry out that order is because D.C. is not a state – and therein lies the problem,” said Senator Carper, who introduced the first Senate D.C. statehood bill in 2013. “What happened in Lafayette Square has made clear that, while we work on the important issue of D.C. statehood, the District of Columbia should be granted control over its National Guard and Metropolitan Police Department – autonomy that every single state enjoys. This year’s defense authorization bill is a clear opportunity for Congress to right this wrong and that’s why Senator Van Hollen and I have filed an amendment to include our bill that would give the mayor of D.C. the same control over its National Guard that all 50 states have. If we are to have a healthy democracy, we cannot let what happened to peaceful protestors in Lafayette Square happen again.”

The amendment mirrors the Senators’ District of Columbia Home Rule Act, legislation they announced on June 18, 2020. Recently, a coalition of over 100 groups, including leading civil rights, labor, democracy and environmental groups, sent a letter calling on Congress to give D.C. control over the D.C. National Guard.  

In addition to Senators Van Hollen and Carper, the amendment to NDAA enacting the D.C. National Guard Home Rule Act is cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.).