Senators Say It’s Time to Reopen U.S. Capitol to Public

By Mark Tapscott
Mark Tapscott
Mark Tapscott
Congressional Correspondent
Mark Tapscott is an award-winning investigative editor and reporter who covers Congress, national politics, and policy for The Epoch Times. Mark was admitted to the National Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Hall of Fame in 2006 and he was named Journalist of the Year by CPAC in 2008. He was a consulting editor on the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series “Other Than Honorable” in 2014.
February 15, 2022Updated: February 17, 2022

Declaring that it’s “illogical and unacceptable” to keep the U.S. Capitol closed “despite the rest of the United States being open,” 27 Republican senators are pushing to restore the public visitation policies that were in place before the CCP virus pandemic began in March 2020.

“It is long past time for the Senate to reopen its doors to those who sent us here to represent them—the American people,” Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), the principal sponsor of a Senate resolution calling for the Capitol’s reopening, told The Epoch Times on Feb. 15.

“Thanks to Operation Warp Speed, vaccines have been available for over a year for those who want them, and Americans from coast to coast have learned to live their lives safely despite the pandemic. From stores to venues and most workplaces and schools, the rest of the United States has reopened, and it’s time for the Senate to do the same.”

The Senate resolution cites eight reasons to justify its call to reopen the Senate side of the Capitol campus, including the Russell, Dirksen, and Hart Senate office buildings. Among the reasons is that “despite the existence of COVID-19, tens of thousands of people routinely gather across the country for sporting, entertainment, worship, and other events.”

Notable among such events was Super Bowl LVI, which included a mask requirement for the huge crowd of football fans and celebrities in attendance. However, few attendees actually wore masks during the game and its associated festivities.

The resolution also notes that reopening the Capitol is appropriate because “stores, restaurants, and other public places have been successfully welcoming the public since the pandemic began in 2020 … the American people, including Members of Congress, routinely use crowded public transportation vehicles, including airplanes and trains … [and] most Americans have long since resumed working around co-workers, customers, and others.”

Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) released a video statement on Feb. 15 in which he said: “It’s past time to reopen these buildings and the U.S. Capitol back up to the American people. They need access to these halls and the building that contains so much of our nation’s history, art, and culture.”

The Arkansas Republican said it’s important that “Americans have the ability to meet and interact with the leaders that represent them.”

On March 12, it will have been two years since the entire Capitol Complex, as well as much of the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, were closed to members of the public.

Since then, the only way for anyone who isn’t a senator or representative, a credentialed member of the news media, or a congressional aide or congressional agency employee to access any part of the complex has been with an escort to a specific place for a limited period of time.

Prior to March 12, 2020, the Capitol Complex was among the busiest locations in Washington, with multiple thousands of tourists visiting historic sites such as the Capitol Rotunda, while legions of individual taxpayers, members of nonprofit and political advocacy groups, diplomats from foreign countries, and lobbyists for corporations and other domestic institutions were calling on congressmen and staffers.

As of Feb. 15, 27 of the 50 Republican senators are co-sponsors of the resolution. They include Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), John Kennedy (R-La.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).

None of the Senate’s 50 Democrats have signed on as a co-sponsor. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) didn’t respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment.

There’s Democratic support for reopening on the House side of the Capitol, however. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), told reporters on Feb. 10 that she expects public tours of the Capitol to resume “pretty soon, I hope.”

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) told NBC News: “This place belongs to the people. They should be able to be here.”

In a related development on Feb. 15, Marshall introduced a measure to end the national emergency declared in 2020 under the National Emergency Act as a result of the CCP virus pandemic.

“With COVID cases and hospitalizations on the decline, 94 percent of Americans having immunity to COVID, mask mandates falling by the wayside, and 70 percent of Americans agreeing ‘it’s time we accept that COVID is here to stay’ and that ‘we just need to get on with our lives,’ it’s clear we need a new approach to COVID as we learn to live with it. That new approach starts with putting an end to the COVID national state of emergency,” he said in a statement.

The Kansas lawmaker is one of four physicians currently serving in the Senate. The other three are Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).