Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN) introduced a resolution in the Senate with the support of 25 Republican senators that calls for the reopening of the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol. Senator Amy Klobuchar(D-MN), chair of the Senate Rules Committee, blocked the resolution. She said a reopening will likely happen incrementally. “We’re simply relying on the health and safety experts to ensure that … when we do reopen, we do it safely,”
Why are the Democrats dragging their feet on supporting the reopening of the Capitol? The U.S. Capitol has been closed to the public since March 2020 due to the pandemic. Since most buildings and businesses are reopening across the country as people are trying to get on with their lives in a more normal way now, the question remains – when will the Capitol reopen? No one really knows. There is no timeline that has been established for the general public to be allowed into the building, though the question has been asked for several months. Why are sports arenas in the area open, for example, for thousands of people to attend sports events but tourists and others cannot be inside the Capitol building?
Senator Hagerty planned to pass the resolution through unanimous consent. The resolution only addresses the Senate side of the building. Axios reports that it calls for the Senate side to reopen with pre-COVID-19 visitor policies in place to “facilitate public participation in the legislative process and public visitation of these historic buildings.” Hagerty released a statement in which he notes that thanks to Operation Warp Speed, vaccines have been available for over a year. The building has been closed for nearly two years, though other buildings are open to the public. “From stores to venues and most workplaces and schools, the rest of the United States has re-opened, and it’s time for the Senate to do the same.”
He’s not wrong. What is the logic being used to keep the public out? Besides the pandemic, is it also an aftereffect of the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill? If so, that isn’t a logical excuse. Changes have been made in security for the building and extraordinary measures like the fencing ordered up by Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been removed. It’s time to open the doors.
Some restrictions were relaxed in December on the Senate side which include limits on the size, duration and frequency of tours. The House side is still closed. The ultimate decision comes from House and Senate sergeants-at-arms ,working with the Capitol’s attending physician. If the excuse is that they are following the science, then the delay should not still be in force. The ironic part of the story is that the subject has become a bipartisan one. Some Democrats realize the time is here to reopen the Capitol building.
Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the Capitol Police should be consulted first, but he’s “generally” supportive of the idea.
“I want to get back to normal as quickly as we possibly can,” said Peters, who also chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Pelosi told NBC News last week tours would restart “pretty soon, I hope.”
It’s time for the end of draconian measures put in place during the pandemic to end. This isn’t February 2020. Americans are adjusting to a more normal life now and that includes opening up the Capitol for tourists and locals alike. Let constituents come to talk to their representatives. It’s time for school kids to be allowed to tour the building and learn about the workings of government up close. If we are truly expected to settle for the answer that decisionmakers are following the science, then there is no longer a reason not to reopen the Capitol building and let visitors in.