Attention! Tustin Hangar ResourceClick Here

California's 40th District

Jan 22, 2021 | In The News, Small Business

In her first solo act in Congress, newly elected GOP Rep. Michelle Steel of Seal Beach is requesting answers about why National Guard troops were briefly made to stay outside or use a parking garage near the United States Capitol to rest between shifts.

“This, without question, is totally unacceptable,” Steel, who represents Orange County’s coastal 48th District, wrote Friday in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “Simply put, the men and women who protect us also deserve our protection.”

About 25,000 Guard members from across the country, including 24 troops from California, deployed to help secure President Joe Biden’s inauguration. Jittery federal officials had requested the aid following the Jan. 6 riot where police were badly outnumbered, locking down the nation’s capital with soldiers, police and barricades.

But images of National Guard soldiers camped in a cold parking garage sparked new calls Friday from both sides of the aisle for investigations of the U.S. Capitol Police.

The National Guard said it originally moved troops out of the Capitol Rotunda and other spaces to garages at the behest of the Capitol Police. The Guardsmen were allowed back inside late Thursday after reports were widely shared of the conditions in the garages, with few bathrooms and little covering from the cold.

Capitol Police Interim Chief Yogananda Pittman issued a statement Friday saying her agency “did not instruct the National Guard to vacate the Capitol Building facilities.” But two Capitol Police officers who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity said they were told department higher-ups had ordered the Guardsmen out. It was unclear why.

While Steel addressed her question to Pelosi, also copying Pittman and Acting House Sergeant at Arms Timothy P. Blodgett, Pelosi does not oversee day-to-day operations of the Capitol Police. Since the Jan. 6 attack some right-leaning social media users have incorrectly claimed Pelosi was responsible for problems with the police response.

Both the Guard and Capitol Police issued a joint statement Friday afternoon saying they have now coordinated to establish “appropriate spaces” within Congressional buildings for on-duty breaks. The statement noted that off-duty troops have hotel rooms or “other comfortable accommodations.”

President Joe Biden expressed his “dismay” about how the troops had been treated to Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. And first lady Jill Biden visited Guard troops outside the Capitol on Friday, bringing them cookies and thanking them for protecting her family.

While the troops are now back inside, Steel said in her letter to Pelosi: “I would like to know who made the decision to move these men and women outside, with limited safe and sanitary rest areas, and what type of health and security consultations were made before making this decision.”

Steel, who defeated Democratic incumbent Harley Rouda, missed her first several votes in office after she tested positive for the coronavirus on Jan. 6. She voted via proxy Dec. 13 against impeaching President Donald Trump. She’s now out of quarantine and voted Thursday in favor of a waiver that will allow Biden appointee General Lloyd Austin to serve as Secretary of Defense. She also has cosponsored a resolution recognizing Korean American Day and another supporting a commission to investigate the Capitol attack.

Rep. Young Kim, who was elected in November along with Steel as the only other Republican representing a portion of Orange County, also tweeted her concern about treatment of the National Guard troops. And she joined a chorus of representatives on both sides of the aisle who offered to let the Guardsmen use their offices.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Orange County Register

Signup to receive our Email Newsletters

The Latest News