Scoop: GOP calls for Capitol to reopen
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.
- Republicans in the House have long railed against pandemic measures like proxy voting and a mandate requiring masks in the chamber.
- A couple of Republicans have opted to be repeatedly fined rather than comply with the mandate, prompting assistant house speaker Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) to suggest they be required to vote in "isolation boxes."
- There's also been a partisan fight over how many members of Congress to allow at President Biden's State of the Union next month.
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.”