A NEW FIGHT:
SCHUMER TO HOUSE GOP: STOP BLOCKING FUNDS TO REPAIR U.S. CAPITOL’S LEAKY DOME
In Letter, Senate Rules Chairman Urges Boehner To Add $61M to Six-Month CR to Fix Damaged Dome
Years of Exposure to Elements Have Left 1,300 Cracks In Iconic Capitol Dome; Experts Warn of Safety Hazard
Schumer: Letting Dome Remain in Disrepair Would Be ‘National Embarrassment’
WASHINGTON, DC—U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), the Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, pressed House Speaker John Boehner on Monday to help fast-track $61 million in funds needed to repair severe damage to the U.S. Capitol.
According to the Architect of the Capitol, years of exposure to the elements have caused over 1300 cracks to the dome, weakening the integrity of the structure and causing water damage due to leaks. Officials also worry that loosening of the ornaments that adorn the exterior of the dome could expose passersby to the risk of falling of debris. Despite this looming safety hazard, House Republicans decided not to include the requested repair funds in a spending bill it produced earlier this year.
The Senate’s appropriations panel, however, did advance the funding on a 26-3 vote earlier this month.
In a letter to Boehner, Schumer urged the House Speaker to support adding the $61 million to a six-month continuing resolution being negotiated by House and Senate leaders and expected to be voted on next month. Schumer said that although the stopgap measure is not expected to fulfill many new spending requests, the urgency of the damage to the done merited special consideration.
“The Capitol’s dome is a monument to our nation’s representative democracy. It would be a national embarrassment if partisan gridlock allowed this iconic work of architecture to fall into a state of permanent decay,” Schumer wrote.
“There is a time and a place to debate federal spending and the proper role of government, but most Americans believe that when your house has a leaky roof, you pay to fix the roof,” he added.
A copy of Schumer’s letter to Boehner appears below.
August 27, 2012
Honorable John Boehner
Speaker of the House
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Speaker Boehner:
As you know, bipartisan negotiators from the House and Senate are currently at work on a six-month continuing resolution (CR) to fund government operations through March 2013. In order to streamline the process and minimize disagreements, these negotiations are expected to sidestep most new funding requests for FY13.
I write to urge that an exception be made for the sake of an urgent bit of housekeeping. The dome of the U.S. Capitol building has fallen into severe disrepair, and the next phase of a planned renovation depends on the approval of approximately $61 million by Congress. As the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, which oversees matters of the Capitol’s physical plant, I have serious concerns about the consequences of omitting this funding from the stopgap funding measure.
According to the Architect of the Capitol, the dome currently has at least 1,300 known cracks, weakening the dome’s structural integrity. The leaks in the dome may even subject the inside of the building—including the fresco painted upon the dome’s interior—to damage from the elements. In addition, the loosening of ornamental fixtures along the dome’s exterior creates an ongoing safety hazard, with passersby at risk of being struck by falling objects from the sky.
The $61 million round of repairs is the second phase of a major renovation to the Capitol Building. It follows the successful completion of work to the dome “skirt” (or base), which Congress funded without controversy. It is important to follow through with the next scheduled round of repairs, and not just for aesthetic reasons. This upkeep is critical for the safety of those who work and tour the Capitol building every single day. The project also has major symbolic importance. The Capitol’s dome is a monument to our nation’s representative democracy. It would be a national embarrassment if partisan gridlock allowed this iconic work of architecture to fall into a state of permanent decay.
The funding for the next phase of repairs to the dome has bipartisan support. The Senate appropriations panel approved this funding on a 26-3 vote at the beginning of August. Even though House Republicans omitted this funding from its legislative branch appropriations bill, Rep. Ander Crenshaw, who heads the relevant House subcommittee, has expressed his personal hope that the money could be made available.
There is a time and a place to debate federal spending and the proper role of government, but most Americans believe that when your house has a leaky roof, you pay to fix the roof. Postponing these repairs by another six months will only increase the project’s price tag down the road.
I urge you to agree to fund the second phase of the Capitol renovation project as part of the six-month CR. With your support, I am confident this critical repair work to a treasured landmark can resume without further interruption.
Senator Charles E. Schumer
Chairman, Senate Rules and Administration Committee