WASHINGTON – They slept on the marble floor, lined up for coffee in the 24-hour snack bar and marveled at the marble-like looks of the country’s founders at the Rotunda and Statuary Hall. They snapped photos with their phones, ate pizza and sometimes played cards with their M4 carbines by their sides.
Crowds of armed, camouflage-weary members of the National Guard rang around the Capitol and stored its halls on Wednesday, weapons, helmets and backpacks apparently stacked in every corner of the complex. The heavily militarized presence provided a grim and sober backdrop for the House of Representatives as a majority of lawmakers moved to indict a sitting U.S. president for inciting a revolt against the nation̵
It evoked reminders of the rebels who had stormed the complex just a week earlier as its horrific residents found shelter inside the barricaded chamber and secure locations across the Capitol – and the accusations left in front of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. ‘s inauguration.
“It does not belong here,” said Representative Elaine Luria, a Democrat in Virginia and a veteran who served 20 years in the Navy, about the military presence in the building. “It’s something that’s out of place.”
“I hate the idea that we want to change in a way, become harder or more difficult for people to come and enjoy the historical monument, that this is due to what happened last week,” she added.
Like lawmakers, aides and journalists still exchanging accounts of where they were during the siege of Trump supporters, Capitol Hill on Wednesday appeared torn between caring for the open wounds of deadly riots and the need to lay the groundwork. for healing under a new administration.
Capitol workers worked feverishly in recent days to finish preparations for the inauguration on January 20 – hanging blue curtains over the entrance to the Rotunda and brushing statues from the statues – among reminders of the violence. Window panes remained shattered and cracked in parts of the Capitol, and two holes were left in the entrance to the office of speaker Nancy Pelosi in California, after rebels stole the speaker’s embossed wooden board.
New Year’s lawmakers held their first floor speech on the benefits of accusing President Trump of high-profile crimes and misdemeanors for inciting an uprising. After a majority in Parliament voted to accuse Trump, Ms. Pelosi spoke from the same rostrum that a supporter of Trump supporters had been photographed with joy pulling over the Capitol.
“I do not have enough adjectives to describe how disgusted I am at what happened and the point we know – it’s sad, it’s outrageous, it’s sad,” said Representative Brian Mast, Republicans in Florida. An army veteran who lost his legs while serving in Afghanistan, he gave tours of the Rotunda to members of the guard as a way to show gratitude for their service. (Mr. Mast also voted to overthrow the results in both Arizona and Pennsylvania and expressed no regret over those votes. He was not among the 10 Republicans who voted to accuse Mr. Trump.)
Some lawmakers lamented the threat that made the military presence necessary, with many Democrats annoyed by the role they said their own Republican counterparts had played in whipping up the rage from the mob that attacked the Capitol, endangering lawmakers’ lives.
“It should not and will not be tolerated,” Representative Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat, told reporters. “And that is why extraordinary security measures have been taken.”
In response in part to concerns about Republicans bringing weapons to the floor of the House, new magnetometers have been installed outside the doors of the chamber, a new security measure that was challenging for several lawmakers. Typically allowed to bypass the magnetometers at the entrances to the building, several Republicans grumbled about the extra layer of security, and some made a point of pushing past police officers despite the alarm.
“You are taking valuable resources all the way from where it should be without any consultation, and you did it without any consultation from the minority,” Representative Rodney Davis of Illinois, the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, told Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, Tuesday. As several people tested positive for coronavirus after protecting themselves in a room with maskless Republicans, Democrats also enforced a fine system for refusing to wear a mask on the chamber floor.
The magnetometers and the increased security were a small consolation during the vote to charge Mr. Trump, as several lawmakers still shook and questioned the ability to attend the inauguration safely. On Wednesday, Ms Pelosi said Parliament would vote this month on a rule change that would enforce a fine system of refusing to comply with the new security protocols and deducting $ 5,000 and $ 10,000 from membership fees for the first and second offenses.
“What we are dealing with now is fighting an uprising, so I feel like everything is upside down,” said Representative Colin Allred, a Democrat in Texas, who recalled whipping his jacket off the floor of the house and preparing on defending his colleagues against the rebels. . “To see National Guardsmen sleeping in the halls, having the necessary protection to have metal detectors set up to walk on the floor of the house – I know the word ‘unprecedented’ is used a lot, but this is unprecedented. And it’s so sad too, just so sad. ”
“It’s supposed to be open,” Mr. Allred from the Capitol. “It’s a museum, it’s a place where ordinary Americans need to feel like they can come and see government work.”
But while it houses both artifacts from American history and holders of the highest offices in American democracy, the Capitol complex is in ordinary times an accessible fortress. But with tourists banned as a way to stop the spread of coronavirus, the presence of hundreds of armed soldiers was even more disturbing after months of almost empty passages.
Several of the soldiers who craned their necks to look at the paintings and sculptures etched into the ceiling of the Rotunda said they had never been to the Capitol, not even as tourists. Their colleagues in another room could be seen sleeping next to a plaque commemorating troops put up in the Capitol in 1861 in the Statuary Hall, and a small group of soldiers lined up for a picture with the statue of Rosa Parks.
John Ismay and Luke Broadwater contributed reporting.