Inhofe, Schumer criticize National Guard treatment

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Friday sharply criticized the treatment of National Guard members on duty at the U.S. Capitol.

Hundreds of National Guard members were reportedly forced to take their extended breaks in the Senate parking garage while on duty at the Capitol on Thursday night. The 400 Oklahoma National Guard members deployed to Washington took extended breaks within the Library of Congress, not the Senate parking garage.

“I was so shocked and really — so angry — last night when I heard that the Guard was being made to feel like they were unwelcome in the Capitol and being told they had to take rest breaks in a parking garage of all places,” Inhofe said. “This isn’t a blame game – but I want to know what happened so we can make sure it can’t happen again.”

About 26,000 National Guard members were deployed to Washington in support of Wednesday’s inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

It has been said that politics creates strange bedfellows, and on Friday, Inhofe and the new Democratic Senate leader joined forces to excoriate the Guard treatment. 

“It was utterly unacceptable,” Schumer said. “I have told those who run security of the Capitol that it can never happen again. And I pledge to every National Guard member that it will not happen again.”

Following Inhofe and Schumer’s comments, it was reported that nearly 200 members of the National Guard tested positive for the coronavirus in the days leading up to Wednesday’s presidential inauguration, sparking fear that the close working quarters of the parking garage could create a potential superspreader event.

Images have emerged from the parking garage showing crowds of troops in close proximity without masks.

Gaylord News is a Washington-based reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.