WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth says Congress needs to get the National Guard reimbursed for the half billion dollars it spent responding to the Jan. 6 insurrection and its aftermath on Capitol Hill.
Duckworth said it does a disservice to service members to allow the issue to fester in limbo.
“I mean, we spend all this time thanking them for their service, and we can’t bother to pay them, simply because what happened (was) the United States Senate decided that January 6th didn’t happen, and they refuse to acknowledge that? It’s obscene,” she said.
The Illinois National Guard‘s Adjutant General said it will be forced to ground aircraft, furlough civilian employees, and suspend training exercises if $31 million in reimbursements doesn’t come through by the end of this month. Illinois National Guard troops were deployed to the Capitol on three separate occasions from January through May.
The National Guard swept cash from other accounts to fund the deployments. But the money must be repaid to those accounts by August to avoid running afoul of federal law.
Duckworth, D-Ill., said she’s optimistic the National Guard can be refunded for its Jan. 6 insurrection response by the end of this month to avoid cutbacks, but that largely depends on resistant Republicans playing ball.
“It’s really up to Republicans to decide if they’re going to put partisan politics over the well-being of our Guard,” she said. “Our guardsmen and women have always responded, and now we’re failing them.”
Duckworth said the money is mired in a wider partisan debate over the events of Jan. 6 that also is holding up funding for the U.S. Capitol Police.
The senator said she hadn’t heard reports of the Pentagon offering to foot the bill for the deployments by deferring “non-urgent” facility repairs, but she said that isn’t enough to protect the country.
“The Pentagon might be able to absorb the National Guard piece, but we still have a major, major shortfall when it comes to the readiness of the Capitol Police, as well,” Duckworth said.
Gov. JB Pritzker and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., also called on Congress to pass the reimbursement funding for the deployments on Tuesday.
Tim Shelley is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.