CHICAGO (CBS Chicago/CBS News) — Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker on Tuesday called on Congress to reimburse the National Guard for providing security at the U.S. Capitol following the riot on Jan. 6.

Pritzker called on the U.S. Senate to take up legislation to do so, as well as to provide funding for safety and security enhancements at the Capitol.

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The Governor’s office noted that after the Jan. 6 riot, thousands of National Guard members – including hundreds from Illinois – were dispatched to Washington to guard the Capitol.

Now, the National Guard has warned that its readiness and future training will be at risk if the $521 million cost of the mission to protect the Capitol isn’t reimbursed.

“Even as the events of January 6th were still unfolding, heroes from across the nation fearlessly mobilized in defense of their country, and every day that our debts to them go unpaid is an insult to their service,” Gov. Pritzker said in a news release. “Congress needs to act with urgency to not only protect the integrity of our National Guard but to do everything possible to prevent another January 6th from ever happening again. Here in Illinois, our Illinois National Guard soldiers and airmen have sacrificed so much over the last 18 months, leaving their homes and families, civilian jobs and universities, dropping their plans and putting their lives on hold – all to respond to the needs of our state and nation. This is about readiness and about taking care of our soldiers and airmen, but even more so, it’s about honor. I urge Congress to act quickly on behalf of the safety, security, and dignity of all Americans.”

Approximately 26,000 National Guard troops were sent to Washington, D.C., for President Biden’s inauguration as a precaution following the January 6 attack on the Capitol. The number dropped to around 5,000 in March, but at the request of the U.S. Capitol Police, the Guard extended its mission and kept roughly 2,200 service members through mid-May, finally wrapping up May 23.

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All 54 states and territories contributed to the mission to protect the Capitol, and Brigadier General Craig Strong told reporters Friday the funding gap will have an effect on the readiness accounts of all of the states and territories.

“Given what the National Guard has done in the last 18 months, we would be sending a terrible message to thousands of dedicated men and women of the Illinois National Guard who have taken the oath to support and defend the Constitution,” Major General Richard R. Neely of Illinois said, adding that the Illinois National Guard faces a potential shortfall of $31 million.

Lawmakers have voiced support for the Guard but haven’t settled on a resolution yet because differences remain over what should be included in the bill.
In May, the House passed a $1.9 billion supplemental bill to fund the National Guard, but it’s been opposed by Republicans because it would also fund the prosecution of January 6 perpetrators.

Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama introduced a bill last week that would give a total of $633 billion to ease the immediate money problems for the National Guard and Capitol Police, and Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont introduced a broader $3.7 billion bill that would provide the National Guard with $521 million and provide for things like humanitarian assistance for Afghan refugees. On Friday, Representatives Ken Calvert and Steve Womack introduced a bill that focuses solely on the money needed by the Guard.

Major General Roger D. Lyles of Indiana said the impact on soldiers and their families would be drastic because they rely on the predictability of having the paycheck from August and September drill weekends to pay their family expenses. He said that after the year the service members have had, it’s important not to introduce unpredictability or unnecessary risk into their lives.

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In addition to its work protecting lawmakers and the president earlier this year, the National Guard has helped deliver over 12 million vaccines to Americans and helped victims of historic fires and hurricanes.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff