Security Briefing Offers Senators No Timeline on National Guard, Capitol Fencing Removal

Several Senators said a Wednesday briefing with U.S. Capitol security officials failed to produce a timeline for removing a surrounding fence or when National Guard troops would be sent home.

Little new information transpired during a virtual call between senators, acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman, and acting Senate Sergeant at Arms Jennifer Hemingway, per The Hill

“What I didn’t hear on the call was, obviously everything depends on conditions, but I think there should be sort of a general plan of, ‘We think we’ll come back to some normal by X day, and if circumstances change we’ll have to change,'” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said.

Asked if any timeline had been offered, Kaine said, “Not that they were saying to us.” 

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said he resisted the continued National Guard presence. 

“I can tell you what I said, I said there’s got to be an end to this thing, and I haven’t heard anything in the presentation that leads me to believe there’s going to be an end, or that there’s really justification,” Inhofe said. “That’s not the Guard’s function. That’s not what they do for a living. And they can’t continue to do that.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said there was no indication when the fencing would come down and “numerous senators expressed concern about that.”

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said he did not attend the virtual briefing due to multiple confirmation hearings but added, “there’s nothing they could have said at that security briefing that would justify having fences and barbed wire.”

“That is a bunch of malarkey,” Burr said. “They ought to tear these fences down and send them home today.”

The Associated Press reported last week Capitol Police had suggested keeping the perimeter fencing in place until Sept. 30 over concerns about threats to lawmakers.

The Zoom call was the first all-member briefing the Senate had received since Jan. 6, when demonstrators protesting the election outcome stormed the Capitol.

National Guard troops were deployed to the Capitol following the attack, and were increased before the Jan. 20 inauguration. Fencing was raised around the complex, including closing down access to nearby streets.

“You know there’s a fair bit of, I think anxiety and frustration with the infrastructure around here. How long is going to last,” Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said.

The Pentagon this week said 5,279 National Guard troops remained stationed at the Capitol. 

Congressional members in both chambers had raised concerns about the optics in leaving the Guard in place without an explicit threat to the Capitol.

After the briefing, some senators suggested security officials were concerned about potential events, such as President Joe Biden addressing a joint session of Congress. There also apparently had been an escalation in threats to lawmakers.

“One of the things that certainly caught my attention was that targeting individual members has gone up 90%,” Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said. “Threats against individual members has gone up 90%, that got my attention.”

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