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.
“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.
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.”