Congress eyes reopening Capitol to public by Labor Day
Congressional officials are discussing a months-long, phased reopening of the Capitol to public tours two years after it was closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Driving the news: The conversations come as many of the COVID restrictions in the Capitol and nationwide have lifted, and as pandemic fatigue runs deep.
- COVID remains an issue for Congress, however: multiple House Democrats have tested positive in recent days after attending their caucus’ annual retreat last week.
The big picture: A draft plan would see the Capitol reopened in three phases starting late this month, with a return to “business as usual” by Labor Day, according to two sources familiar.
- Under the plan, the cap on tour attendance would be lifted on March 28, allowing an increase from nine to 15 visitors for official business, plus a restart of 15-person tours led by members' staff and 50-person student tours led by Capitol guides.
- Phase Two would see the Capitol Visitor Center reopened by May 30, with Labor Day as a “highly tentative” target for full reopening.
- The plan was discussed at a meeting on Monday that included the House Administration Committee, Senate Rules Committee, House and Senate sergeants-at-arms and the Capitol Police.
The backdrop: The Capitol is an iconic tourist destination, especially in the spring with school breaks and the cherry blossom bloom in D.C., as well as during the summer, when many families vacation.
- Rank-and-file members have pushed for the building to be reopened in recent weeks.
- The Senate earlier this month unanimously passed a GOP-led resolution, first reported by Axios, calling to reopen the Senate side of the Capitol complex.
But, but, but: There’s the glaring problem of Capitol security to deal with.
- There are 10% fewer Capitol Police officers than when the pandemic began, according to a source.
- That's been spurred by both the pandemic and the Jan. 6 attack, which prompted an exodus of hundreds of officers.
What's next: The plan is not yet finalized, with one source telling Axios the Capitol Police board still needs to approve it before it's put into action.
Editor's note: Updates with additional reporting about Capitol Police board still needing to approve the plan.