Feb 15, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: GOP calls for Capitol to reopen

A jogger and her dog are seen passing in front of the U.S. Capitol.
Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

More than half of Senate Republicans plan to introduce a resolution this week calling to fully reopen the Capitol to the public after it was closed because of the coronavirus, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The resolution is the latest salvo in an ongoing dispute between the two parties over how secured the Capitol should be amid the lingering pandemic — and the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack.

Driving the news: Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) is leading the resolution along with 25 mostly conservative Senate Republicans.

  • They include Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) and Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
  • The resolution calls for the Senate side of the Capitol complex to return to pre-COVID-19 visitor policies to "facilitate public participation in the legislative process and public visitation of these historic buildings."
  • "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," Hagerty said in a statement obtained by Axios.
  • Hagerty plans to try to pass the resolution through unanimous consent this week, spokesperson Judd Deere told Axios.

The backdrop: The Capitol has been largely closed to the public since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, with no clear, public timeline for reopening.

  • Restrictions were relaxed slightly on the Senate side in December, but with limitations on the size, duration and frequency of tours.
  • The ultimate decisionmakers are the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms, in consultation with the Capitol’s attending physician, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s spokesperson Drew Hammill told Axios.

But, but, but: Even some Democrats want tours to restart.

  • 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.”
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