EXCLUSIVE: House Republicans are demanding answers from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on why fencing and a contingent of National Guard members are still needed at the Capitol two months after the deadly Jan. 6 riot.
In a letter to Pelosi obtained first by Fox News, the 17 House members want to know when the Capitol will feel less like a military zone and return to normal operations.
The letter was organized by Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla., who told Fox News the security fencing is "overkill" and he believes the extraordinary security measures remain up "for political reasons and not really safety reasons."
Gimenez thinks Pelosi could persuade the Capitol Police and Pentagon to lower the security posture at the Capitol but by keeping the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot alive, Democrats want to send the message that the Capitol needs to be safeguarded from the right and the Republican Party -- and "there's nothing that could be further from the truth," Gimenez told Fox News. "This party is about law and law-abiding citizens."
Pelosi's spokesperson, Drew Hammill, responded late Tuesday night saying: "The Speaker expects security professionals to make the security decisions and continues to support the US Capitol Police’s requests for the temporary fencing and support from the National Guard. We don’t need any lectures on security from House Republicans who fanned the flames of these insurrectionists and overwhelmingly voted to overturn the election result. (Including 15/17 signatories of this letter)."
The letter comes as the Pentagon plans to approve the extension of the National Guard troops stationed at the U.S. Capitol for another two months, a senior U.S. defense official told Fox News.
The announcement followed a request from Capitol Police that 2,200 National Guard troops remain behind to assist with security concerns.
Fox News confirmed that roughly 1,700 guardsmen will continue to serve at the Capitol – a security force reduced from the 5,000 troops currently deployed in Washington, D.C.
There's been various security reviews underway since the Jan. 6 riot where police were overrun and beaten by supporters of former President Trump who charged the Capitol and attempted to stop Congress from certifying President Biden's Electoral College victory.
Pelosi tapped retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré to conduct a review of Capitol security in the aftermath. Honoré and his team conducted bipartisan briefings for members of Congress on Monday on his recommendations, including establishing a 24/7 "Quick Reaction Force."
Gimenez attended the closed-door briefing on Monday and came away thinking the security measures at the Capitol were not needed at the same level as they are currently. He worked with his colleagues on penning the letter to Pelosi to get answers.
"Two months after the abhorrent violence that occurred in the United States Capitol on January 6th, Members of Congress have still not been briefed on any specific imminent threats to the Capitol complex, nor have any plans been moved forward to return the U.S. Capitol to normal operations," the members wrote to Pelosi Tuesday.
The Republicans said the security decisions "are being made behind closed doors with zero input by those working on Capitol grounds on a daily basis."
The members want Pelosi to tell them what are threats that require the National Guard's presence; what is the benefit of the fencing; when will militarized security measures end and how much the federal government is spending on the security.
Joining Gimenez on the letter were fellow Republicans Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, Joe Wilson of South Carolina, Adrian Smith of Nebraska, Jody Hice of Georgia, Brian Mast of Florida, Burgess Owens of Utah, John Rutherford of Florida, Ted Budd of North Carolina, Ron Estes of Kansas, Gregory Steube of Florida, Randy Weber of Texas, Byron Donalds of Florida, Jim Hagedorn of Minnesota, Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, Louie Gohmert of Texas and Nancy Mace of South Carolina.
Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson and Caitlin McFall contributed to the report.