GOP Congressman Asks Why There’s No Plan for Reopening the Hill

GOP Congressman Asks Why There’s No Plan for Reopening the Hill
The Capitol in Washington on Jan. 2, 2020. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
Mark Tapscott

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), the top Republican on the House Committee on Administration, says congressional Democratic leaders still don’t have a plan for safely reopening Capitol Hill to members, staff aides, or the public.

“Members are set to return this week again without a comprehensive plan from the majority to reopen the Capitol complex,” Davis said in a Sept. 14 statement accompanying the release of his letter to committee Chairwoman Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).

“As we saw in July, the return of members means more staff, press, and others frequenting the Hill. The House has been out of session for the last six weeks, yet there has been no movement to establish testing, additional guidance for offices and support services, or a plan to re-welcome visitors,” Davis said.

He noted that the White House and multiple museums within the Smithsonian Institution have implemented such plans and are reopening to the public. The White House resumed public tours Sept. 12 after a six-month suspension, but with limited days and limited capacity.

“This is not the way private businesses and other governments are operating across the country, and the American people deserve better from their representatives,” Davis said in the statement.

The administration committee oversees the daily operations of the House of Representatives, including the chamber itself, and the Cannon, Longworth, and Rayburn House office buildings, where members and committees maintain offices and staffs, and thousands of visitors from across the country gather to lobby officials.

In his letter to Zofgren, Davis said, “The House of Representatives needs to do more to support its essential workers. It has been 25 weeks since the House began to feel the impacts of COVID-19 and it is past time that a transparent, wholistic plan for supporting a safe and phased physical reopening of the House be made available to our workforce.”
Some measures have been implemented in response to the CCP virus, also known as the novel coronavirus. Davis told Lofgren, however, that “despite the adoption of hybrid hearings, increased telework operations, and proxy voting, we need to recognize that there are still a substantial number of staff that perform their duties in person.”

House officials should recognize, Davis wrote, that “the essential first step to reopening the House is adoption of a wholistic health monitoring program that equally leverages personal responsibility and institutional prudence.

“The current system, a 5-point questionnaire, is not sufficient to ensure the safety of our Members and staff, particularly when there is no training or incentives in place to ensure truthful compliance. Furthermore, no support has been provided to automate the process to help drive compliance.”

In his letter to Lofgren, Davis pointed to an analysis by the committee’s Republican members that argued “the current program falls short of what is needed to ensure that member offices are compliant with Office of Attending Physician (OAP) guidance recommendations.

“We need to craft and implement a health monitoring system that empowers staff and Members with tools to show beyond a reasonable doubt that they are not infected and that, if they show symptoms, we can aid in their diagnosis by providing testing resources and contacting other individuals with whom they had contact.”

The analysis also said reopening the Capitol complex to the general public should be a top priority for the administration committee.

“A staged reopening plan must include strategies for how the House will begin to re-welcome in-person visitors on official business and tours,” the analysis said.

“Although it will be up to each Member office discretion what limitations their in-person meetings and tour offerings will include, it is House Administration’s responsibility to establish guidance on what is baseline acceptable for the health and safety of the House community.”

Contact Mark Tapscott at [email protected]
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.