WASHINGTON – They slept on the marble floor, lined up for coffee at the 24-hour snack bar, and marveled at the marble similarities of the nation’s founders in the Rotunda and Statue Hall. They snapped photos with their phones, ate pizza and sometimes played cards with their M4 carbine on their side.
Masses of armed, camouflaged, tired members of the National Guard rang around the Capitol on Wednesday and lined up its halls, arms, helmets and backpacks apparently in every corner of the complex. The heavily militarized presence provided a chaotic and sobering backdrop for the House Chamber as most lawmakers set out to hold a seated U.S. president accountable for launching an uprising on the nation’s Capitol.
He recalled reminders of the riots who had attacked the complex barely a week earlier when frightened residents were sheltered in the chamber of the barricaded house and in the safe places of the Capitol – and the charges against the elected president, Joseph R. Biden, Jr. They stayed ahead. “s installation.
“It doesn’t belong here,” said MP Elaine Luria, a Virginia Democrat and veteran who spent 20 years in the Navy from a military presence in the building. – That’s something wrong.
“I hate the idea that we’re going to change in some way, it’s going to be harder or harder for people to come to the historical monument that happened last week,” he added.
Like lawmakers, helpers, and journalists who were still billing about where Trump supporters were during the siege, Capitol Hill on Wednesday seemed to be between nurturing open wounds from deadly riots and the need to lay the groundwork. for recovery under a new administration.
Capitol staff have been working feverishly in recent days to complete preparations for the January 20 inauguration – blue curtains hung over the entrance to the Rotunda and wiped the dust off the statues – among reminders of the violence. The shutters remained shards and cracks in parts of the Capitol, leaving two holes above the entrance to the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California after rioters stole the speaker’s embossed wooden board.
Freshman lawmakers have delivered their maiden speeches accusing President Trump of high sins and misdemeanors for inciting an uprising. After the majority of the House voted for Mr. Trump’s acquittal, Ms. Pelosi spoke of the same performer that a pro-Trump supporter was being photographed cheerfully in the Capitol.
“I don’t have enough adjectives to describe how disgusted I am with what happened and the point we’re at – sad, disgusting, sad,” said Representative Brian Mast, a Florida Republican. An army veteran who lost his leg while serving in Afghanistan held Rotunda tours for members of the guard to express gratitude for their service. (Mr. Mast also voted to overthrow the results in Arizona and Pennsylvania and did not regret those votes. He was not among the 10 Republicans who voted to charge Trump.)
Some lawmakers regretted the threat that necessitated the presence of the military, and many Democrats were angry at the role they thought their own Republican colleagues were playing in subverting the rage of the crowd attacking the Capitol, endangering the lives of lawmakers.
“It shouldn’t and won’t be tolerated,” Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat in New York, told reporters. – And that’s why extraordinary security measures have been taken.
In part in response to concerns about Republicans bringing weapons to the floor of the house, new magnetometers were installed outside the chamber doors, a new security measure that challenged several lawmakers. In general, they can be allowed to bypass magnetometers at the entrance to the building, several Republicans grumbled over the added security layer, and some sought to push the cops in despite the alarm being turned on.
“You are completely taking valuable resources from where you need to be, without any consultation, and you guys have done it without any minority consultation,” Rodney Davis, a Illinois representative, the Supreme Republican of the Household Administration Committee, addressed the MP. Maryland’s Steny H. Hoyer, the majority leader on Tuesday. Since the coronavirus result was positive in several people after fleeing to the room of a Republican without a mask, Democrats also enforced a fine system because they refused to wear a mask on the floor of the chamber.
Magnetometers and increased security were a small convenience in the vote on Mr Trump’s indictment, as many lawmakers continued to sway and question the ability to safely attend the inauguration. On Wednesday, Ms Pelosi said the House would vote this month on a rule change that would introduce a system of fines for refusing to comply with the new security protocols, deducting $ 5,000 and $ 10,000 from members ’salaries after the first and second crimes.
“What we’re dealing with right now is fighting the insurgency, so I feel like everything is upside down,” said Texas Democrat Colin Allred, who recalled putting on his coat on the floor of the house and preparing to protect his colleagues. from the disruptors. . “To see the national guards sleeping in the hall, to protect the necessary detector from placing metal detectors to get to the floor of the house – I know the word‘ unprecedented ’is used a lot, but there has never been an example of that. And it’s also so sad, just so sad. “
“They’re open,” Mr. Allred added from the Capitol. “It’s a museum, it’s a place where ordinary Americans need to feel like they can come and see the work of the government.”
But although there are finds from American history and holders of the highest positions in American democracy, the Capitol complex is usually the fortress to be reached. But as tourists were banned to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the presence of hundreds of armed soldiers became even more disturbing after months of almost empty corridors.
Several of the soldiers looking at the paintings and statues engraved on the ceiling of the Rotunda said they had not even visited the Capitol as a tourist. Their colleagues could be seen taking a break in another room next to a plaque commemorating the troops transported in the Capitol in 1861, in the Sculpture Hall, and a small group of soldiers photographed the statue of Rosa Parks.
John Ismay and Luke Broadwater contributed to the report.